Do You Get What You Pay For?

Last year I made a motion to not fund an additional Juvenile Court Judge. My rational was that our county population was ~180k and we already had 2 Juvenile Court Judges while Forsyth County (same size) only has 1; Gwinnett County with a population of over 800k only has 3. This was rooted in the fact that when the county increased the number of State Court Judges from 2 to 3, the load actually decreased.

When you look at Hall County, we have an extensive court system:

Probate Judge–                            1

State Court Judges–                     3

Magistrate Court Judges–             4

Juvenile Court Judges–                 3

Superior Court Judges-                4

Now, some of these judges are shared with Dawson County. Dawson County pays for 10% of the Superior Courts and 17% of one of the Juvenile Court judges. I have several issues with this arrangement: 1- the 10% ratio is an unfair balance, 2- the agreement only covers “the” juvenile court judge, and 3- the interface agreement is out of date and has not been updated.

First, when the 10% number was established it probably seemed fair. The last census had Hall County with a population of 179,640 residents whereas Dawson County had 22,330. That put Dawson County at 11% of the population. While that seems close, you have to look at the workload: Hall County has State Court judges, Dawson County does not. That means that any charge that would normally have gone to Hall County state court like DUI, Speeding, Simple Battery, etc. would be handled by Superior Court. Looking at the numbers above, Hall County has 3 state court judges. This would mean that when you remove the case load from the Superior Court, Dawson County is probably using close to 25% of the total case load. Can you say Hall County tax dollars being used in Dawson County?

My second issue is with “the” juvenile court judge. 17% of 1 would be 5.5% of three. However, when I asked last year if Dawson County would share the cost of the new judge, I was told that the judge would be 100% used in Hall County. I was disheartened when I saw that ALL THREE juvenile court judges are listed on the Dawson County website. What was even more disheartening is when I asked the County Commission to look into this misuse of Hall County Tax dollars, Chairman Mecum’s response was that I lacked “knowledge and experience of the court system in general and the juvenile courts specifically” and that I needed “to contact the Hall County Juvenile Court to obtain more factual information.” He is right in a sense, when I sent the email I thought that Dawson County kicked in 20% for two judges, not 16.67% of one.

Finally, the interface agreement was signed in 2000 for a term of three years. The IA allowed for Dawson County to renew for an additional 3 years with compensation “being subject to renegotiation.” An open records request, however, did not uncover an extension or renegotiation of the agreement.

So what do I propose? I don’t like the fact that Hall County tax payers are paying 100% of salary and benefits to a judge that is working in another county. Shouldn’t the Hall County taxpayer receive 100% of the benefit of our tax dollars? Why are we paying taxes on services used in another county? I think it is time to break up this little party that is going on with our Superior Court judges. I think that it is time to deport one to Dawson County and then have them pay for 100% of the service.

Your friend,

Commissioner Chuck

  4 comments for “Do You Get What You Pay For?

  1. GT183
    July 29, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    In the case of a speeding ticket in Dawson County, are you saying that they are handled in Hall County by our state court judges or are you saying that they are handled by the superior court judges in Dawson County? Also, are you saying that Hall County tax dollars are being spent in Dawson County?

    • July 29, 2015 at 1:28 pm

      I am saying that speeding tickets in Dawson County are handled by the superior court in Dawson County. Dawson County also does not have a solicitor, so that work is handled by the District Attorney which is also shared with Hall County. The misdemeanor workload probably comes close to doubling the entire workload for the court in Dawson.

      So yes, since Dawson County uses a higher percentage of the bandwidth then they are paying for, yes I believe that the Hall County taxpayer is subsidizing the court services in Dawson County.

  2. PIRG
    July 30, 2015 at 9:04 am

    Since it will take the Dawson County Board of Commissioners to change the amount they contribute, how do you plan on persuading them to do just that? For that matter, how are you going to persuade the current Hall County BOC to refrain or withdraw the funding? You were a part of the group that approved the 3rd state court judge under the expectations they would receive more than enough in fines and fees to pay for the position. I don’t think that ever happened at least according to the budget documents that I have reviewed. It was never brought to the Hall County Agenda for anyone in the court system to explain. Nor, was there any movement to abolish the 3 state court judge position. I know you received an email a few years back suggesting the BOC bring other elected officials before the Board to explain some of their actions, especially, with the BOC “purse strings” authority. I believe I heard during one of the BOC hearings from TV18 where the 3rd Juvenile Court Judge resulted from some kind of state mandate. You are aware of the Sheriff’s Department expanding one of their multi purpose rooms in the Detention Center to accommodate the Solicitor where they used inmate labor. Has that not relieved some of the burden on State or Superior Court Hearings especially when it comes to what is a day for pleas, motions or revocations often referred to as (PMR) days? I haven’t heard any analysis about how or if this has relieved the court load. That was an expenditure ($10,000) that you could have questioned in open session, but no one did. Since, you have identified some problems, how do we resolve them?

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