City Judges Say Left Out Of The Loop By City Hall

Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Judge Sherry Paty addresses the City Council
Judge Sherry Paty addresses the City Council

City Judges Sherry Paty and Russell Bean told City Council members they have been left out of the loop on changes to the city charter affecting City Court.

She also said the judges only accidentally learned this morning about a resolution on the council's evening agenda regarding a $457,000 contract to make City Court paperless. She said she read about it on Chattanoogan.com.

"This is beyond frustrating to us," she said.

Judge Paty asked that the issues about the charter change and the paperless system be delayed "until there is a new administration.

"

Judge Paty and Mayor Ron Littlefield in 2010 clashed when the judge charged that the mayor had tried to influence her in a case pet store case in a manner that was "improper, unethical and perhaps contemptible." The mayor said he had gotten involved because he felt the judge was being "indecisive."

The council agreed to hold off on any city charter changes affecting City Court at this time, though proceeding with other sections that are "archaic."

Council members also indicated they may delay consideration of the purchase of an electronic management system software suite for $457,108 from Armedia, L.L.C. Officials said there are plans to convert other offices to a paperless system and the city may eventually do an estimated $1 million business with the Atlanta-based firm. The annual maintenance fee is $58,423.

However, the contract was approved with only Councilwoman Deborah Scott asking for a delay. Councilwoman Carol Berz said that another department could go first if problems continue with implementing it in City Court. 

Judge Bean said there had been discussion of such a move about 18 months ago, but he had heard nothing recently.

He said he asked at the time if there was a backup system. He said, "When we have 100 people waiting in court, we can't have the system go down."

The judge asked what other court system had gone paperless. "They still use paper in Sessions Court," he said.

On the proposed charter changes, Judge Paty noted that it was removing a section about City Court about concurrent jurisdiction with General Sessions Court to hear state cases. She noted that the city had pulled back from hearing state cases some years ago, but at some point might want to resume.

City Attorney Mike McMahan said he believed the city had lost its right to do so under a state law dealing with municipalities.

Daisy Madison, finance director, said the city had made a gaffe by not getting the judges included. She said the contacts had been with interim City Court Clerk Jan Turner. But she said she did not want to see the whole project shelved.

She said it was felt that City Court was the place to start the conversion because of its large amount of paper.

Judge Paty said one charter change put the city court clerk under the finance department. She said that would preclude other options, including an elected clerk.

One version of the City Court charter change had the City Council having annual oversight over the pay of the judges. 

      


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