published Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Hamilton County may extend magsitrates' terms

Chairman Fred Skillern
Chairman Fred Skillern
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

In other business, commissioners:

• Accepted bids from nine companies for one-year contract pricing for inmate uniforms at the Hamilton County Jail.

• Approved bids from five companies for six-month contract pricing for gravel, cement, sand and other building and highway materials.

• Agreed to pay $62,930 for two, four-wheel-drive Ford Expeditions from Brooker Ford for use by Hamilton County Emergency Services.

• Accepted a proposal from Mauldin and Jenkins CPA to conduct financial audits for the county general government, constitutional officers and school activity funds.

Hamilton County Commission Chairman Fred Skillern says he's happy with the current set of judicial commissioners, and he thinks they should be able to stick around -- without having to re-apply for their jobs.

Judicial commissioners, also known as magistrates, sign warrants for searches and felony arrests, appoint attorneys for defendants who can't afford legal aid, set bonds and assist Hamilton County courts.

They are paid $61,143 a year with benefits and work full time, all hours of the day.

Historically, the commission has interviewed and appointed two of four judicial commissioners every six months. Skillern says that's been a hassle, and if the judicial commission isn't broken, why fix it.

"I feel personally, we have the best group of magistrates that we've had, and we've had a minimal amount of problems over the last six months. Can we vote up or down the same magistrates we have now before we go through all this?" Skillern asked at Wednesday's meeting.

Last time two magistrate seats were up in October, commissioners received more than 20 applications from all over the region. From that, they interviewed 13 applicants over two days. Ultimately, Ron Powers and Nathaniel Goggans were selected. Magistrate Larry Ables had bowed out of the race to run for a Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge post.

Seats for Magistrate Sheretta Smith and Chief Magistrate Randy Russell are currently up for re-appointment in May.

District 3 Commissioner Marty Haynes, who leads the commission's security and correction committee, he will call a meeting after the agenda session next month to discuss the possibility of re-appointing Smith and Russell without opening the positions.

County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said he would sit in on the meeting.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6481.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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