HOMER — Banks County Chief Magistrate Ivan Mote will be able to hire an additional part-time magistrate judge to ease some of his workload, but the position will only be funded through the end of the fiscal year.
County commissioners Tuesday night approved $5,560 in funding for the job through June 30, but Commission Chairman Jimmy Hooper said Mote will need to come back before the board at budget time to ask for additional money.
Mote, however, said even once a hire is approved, the employment won’t occur overnight. Additionally, he reminded commissioners that Georgia law provides that a magistrate serves for the duration of the term of the chief magistrate.
In his request to commissioners Tuesday night, Mote said $3,560 is half of the minimum salary pursuant to Georgia law, $350 is for education and training, $150 is for Court Council dues, and $1,500 is for travel.
For the 2019-2020 budget year, Mote said the requested amount would increase from $3,560 to $9,120, which would be a full year’s salary plus the additional fees and expenses listed above.
Currently, Banks County Magistrate Court operates with the same number of employees as more than 30 years ago despite drastic population increase, according to Mote.
“For the past 13-plus years, I have worked 40-hour workweeks and have been on call most nights during the week and every other weekend with the exceptions of taking vacation, sick and/or personal time and training; this amounts to approximately 4,600 on-call hours per year,” Mote’s proposal for the additional part-time magistrate states. “The part-time magistrate normally covers every other weekend, my vacation, training and any other personal/sick time, which equals about 200 regular work hours and 2,000 on-call hours per year.”
While Mote and the clerk cover normal business hours for the court Monday through Friday, “… there must be a magistrate available, on call, 24 hours a day, every day of the year for the purpose of hearing applications for arrest and search warrants and on weekends conducting first appearance and bond hearings as well as extradition hearings,” Mote’s proposal reads. “During these on-call hours, I or the part-time magistrate must be able to make himself available for warrant applications within approximately 30 minutes of being called by law enforcement during an emergency-type situation, which can occur anytime day or night.”
In his proposal and during his presentation to the county commission Tuesday night, Mote said the on-call responsibilities reduce the ability of the on-call magistrate to leave the county during the time for which that individual is on call.
“it is not reasonable to require someone to give up personal activities outside and sometimes inside the county every night and weekend just because they are considered part-time and/or on call, especially considering the pay, nor is it reasonable for myself to have to be so restricted in my personal activities just to afford a single part-time magistrate these opportunities,” Mote’s proposal states.
In his written argument to commissioners for the additional part-time magistrate, Mote states Banks County has a population between 18,000 and 19,000, and that there are at least seven Georgia counties with between 14,000 and 18,000 people that have three to five magistrates. The closest of those counties is Rabun, with others being Brantley, Cook, Dooly, Green, Jefferson and McIntosh.
“While I have felt for a long time that there should be a second part-time magistrate in Banks County, I have not addressed the issue for various reasons,” Mote’s proposal reads. “At the present time as well as the preceding three months, the part-time magistrate has been ill and I have been on call all but approximately 120 hours.:
Mote provided commissioners with a Dec. 14 letter from Piedmont Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Joseph H. Booth stating the four superior court judges “feel that your request for an additional part-time associate judge is warranted and at a superior court judges’ meeting on Nov. 30, we unanimously approved your request pursuant to Ga. Code 15-10-20.”