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Roswell on track to change charter on court operations
by Joan Durbin
jdurbin@neighbornewspapers.com
November 20, 2013 05:26 PM | 1216 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A change to Roswell’s charter that eliminates specific positions in the department of municipal court services is halfway to approval.

Last week, city council members gave a tentative OK to verbiage that removes the charter section that sets up court services with a clerk of courts, solicitor and deputy solicitors, marshals and support personnel. The amended section substitutes more general language that allows the city to “provide for such court personnel as deemed appropriate for the effective operation of the municipal court of the city.”

The amendment doesn’t erase the positions, according to Deputy City Administrator Michael Fischer.

“It does not do away with the positions at the city or the duties, it just removes the named positions from the charter to give the city more flexibility in staffing positions that may be needed to run an efficient judicial process,” Fischer said.

“The charter limited the types of positions the city could utilize for the courts processes.  With the change to the language in the charter, the city is not limited to just the positions listed, but can use whatever positions would best provide the services needed.”

A contract to outsource the court services operations has been authorized but not signed. Roswell is being sued by the court’s chief clerk and deputy clerk, who may lose their jobs if the court services are privatized.

The plaintiffs seek a restraining order, in part because the city charter has always mandated their positions.

But in a written response, the city’s legal staff said their claim is moot. “Neither plaintiff has a vested right to employment by the city in the positions they now hold because mayor and council, pursuant to the charter, have the authority to remove any employee ‘with or without cause, at any time,’ for dismissal,” the document said.

The mayor and council have always been authorized by the charter to provide court services “in a manner they deem in the best interests of the city,” it said.

Additionally, legal staff pointed out, as of last week, city officials have already instituted a change of the charter section used by the plaintiffs to build a case.

The change, if finalized, has no effect on the elected or appointed status of the municipal judge, Fischer said.

The judge’s seat has been filled with interim judges since former municipal judge Maurice Hilliard resigned. A special election has been called for next spring for a new judge, but city officials are also weighing the option of appointing a candidate instead. A report commissioned by the city on the merits of elected vs. appointed judges was given to council at a recent council committee meeting, and some members have asked questions that require time to formulate answers.

“The discussion on the pros and cons of an appointed judge will be brought back to a future committee and/or work session,” Fischer said. 

“It may be too much to discuss as a committee item, so it might be a work session of its own.  The type of meeting has not yet been determined, but either meeting will be advertised as a public meeting.”

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