Boyd Says Commissioners Want Answers From Coppinger On Magistrate Payouts

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

County Commissioner Tim Boyd has written County Mayor Jim Coppinger saying he wants answers to questions raised about certain payouts to county magistrates.

He said other commissioners who were at a Security and Corrections Committee meeting joined him in wanting the answers.

Mike Dunne, spokesman for the county mayor, said, "The magistrate program is run by the commission. The executive branch of Hamilton County Government has no involvement in the decisions made by the commission relating to the magistrates other than to follow their direction."

Randy Russell, who was chief magistrate for eight years but was not retained, said other magistrates in recent years have gotten payment when they left for unused sick time.

He was at the County Commission meeting on Wednesday, but the issue was not brought up.

Commissioner Boyd wrote this letter:

"Dear Mayor Coppinger, "It has come to the attention of Commissioners that payouts were made to Magistrate judges when their contracts were not renewed. Most recently, a significant payout was made to Mr. Randy Russell, which was not approved by the full Commission.

"The Securities and Corrections Committee discussed the issue in its meeting Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, with the focus being the $26,000 paid to Mr. Russell.

"Commissioners present ask that I relay these questions to the Mayor's office.

"I. How was the payout calculated?

"2.  Who approved the payout?

"3.  Should the Commission have approved the payment?

"4.  If not, why were Commissioners not notified of the action?

"5.  When were the payouts to Mr. Russell and Ms. Brandy Spurgin-Floyd issued?

"6.  What corrective actions will be taken to prevent this type of overpayment in the future?

"Commissioners would like copies of Magistrate Judge Contracts used before and after 2013. It is our understanding from County Attorney Rheubin Taylor that the language in the contracts was changed at some point in 2013. The Commissioners would like to see the specifics relating to Magistrate compensation and benefits, specifically the 'personal time off' provisions.

"Please let me know when the Commission can expect this information. Thank you for your attention to this matter."

Commissioner Boyd said he was present at the committee meeting as were Commissioners Randy Fairbanks, Sabrena Smedley, Greg Beck, Joe Graham, Jim Fields, Chester Bankston and Greg Martin.

Commissioner Martin said he was not at the meeting.

Commissioner Fields said, "I do not recall asking you to send the letter to which you are referring.  I did not enter the meeting until the very end so the issue may have come up before I got there."

Commissioner Graham said, "I was in the meeting I did not ask you to contact the Mayor, this is our problem, or at least until my replacement is sworn in."

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