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Judicial commissioner turnover a concern
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Problems retaining Warren County Judicial Commissioners is nothing new. The county Policy and Personnel Committee met to discuss what can be done to ease the problem.
Within the last two-and-a-half months, four judicial commissioners have resigned: Jimmy Griffith and Brenda Muncey, who were both longtime employees, and Chase McGee and Crystal McGlothen, who were hired in August 2014 and January 2013, respectively.
On the committee are Commissioners Ken Martin, chairman, Carlene Brown, Wayne Copeland, Charles Morgan and Tommy Savage.
The situation of high turnover among judicial commissioners is nothing new, says Copeland.
“In all the years that I’ve been on here, I don’t know how many we’ve gone through,” he said. “It seems like they are all energetic to start with. When the new wears off or whatever, they fizzle out.”
Martin recommends changing to shifts in an effort to reduce turnover.
“I would like to make a suggestion. It’s certainly a committee decision. I really think we need to go to shifts,” he said.
Monday thru Friday will have three, 40-hour shifts: day, evening and night. Then, there would be some individuals who work weekends. Currently, judicial commissioners are considered full-time, part-time or fill-in and there is no real structure as to who works when because they swap shifts.
Martin continued, “We’ve already got a day-shift person and that’s Jim Hartman. I have talked to David Williamson and he would like to do the second shift. My only concern is what this would do to the two or three commissioners we’ve got left. They are going to have to work on the weekends. I know a couple of them already work on the weekends.”
Muncey and McGlothen submitted resignation letters recently, leaving the staff shorthanded. Martin says that needs to be rectified as fast as possible.
“We’re out of people. It’s causing problems. We’ve got to make a decision. Either we are going to shifts or we are going to hire a couple of people to fill in,” said Martin.
While Copeland voiced approval for going to shifts, Morgan did not.
“I don’t see how shifts are going to change anything,” said Morgan. “I’m against setting shifts. I think we are going to have everybody resign but about two or three. Then, we are going to be in a mess trying to find people who are qualified. That’s my opinion. I’m just one vote, but I’m not for going to shifts.”
Martin suggested asking judicial commissioners to come in and discuss with the committee how the change might affect them.
Hartman, in attendance during the meeting, believes setting shifts would be beneficial.
“There is no structure in terms of when people work,” said Hartman. “It’s company policy that as long as the shifts are covered, they can kinda swap among themselves and cover those shifts. That’s well and fine when you have adequate people to do that. When you don’t have adequate people to do that, which is the situation you are in now, it puts you in a position where those that are there and are trained and qualified, have to work long hours to make up for it.”
Hartman says he worked Monday thru Friday 40 hours and then had to come in Saturday and work because a dispatcher from E-911 called him because it was unclear who, if anyone, was working at that time.
Martin says that’s the county’s biggest incentive to switch to shifts.
“Without shifts, 911 doesn’t know who is supposed to be working,” said Martin. “They don’t know who to call. I can’t keep up with it because they swap hours without telling me. I have no clue who is supposed to be there. They are supposed to call 911 and report who’s there, but they aren’t doing it.”
Hartman says the high turnover rate is a detriment to having highly trained individuals on staff.
“We are not pumping gas at the local gas station,” said Hartman. “We are dealing with people’s lives. Was there a crime committed and is the person being accused culpable for it? This is very serious. We have to make sure these people are trained properly to understand what the TCA codes are and to establish probable cause.”
Training takes time, another reason to stop the high turnover rate, says Martin.
“We do more training than the state requires us to do,” he said. “We require, sometimes, two to three times more than the state does. I always tell them, ‘Do not let this person loose until you are sure they can write a warrant.’”
No decision was made on Martin’s proposal to switch to shifts. However, the committee will begin the hiring process for a full-time position with that person to “possibly” cover a third shift Monday thru Friday.