A vacant Bibb County magistrate position hasn’t been filled a year after Bibb County judges rescinded the reappointment of a magistrate who resigned in the wake of a “love offering” scandal.
The magistrate judgeship was one of 23 vacant jobs frozen by Bibb County commissioners during 2011 budget talks for fiscal year 2012. Freezing the magistrate job saved the county about $38,000, according to Bibb County’s Human Resources Department.
The freeze became effective about six months after Chief Magistrate William C. “Billy” Randall nominated former Magistrate Selinda D. Handsford for an appointment to the bench.
The county’s Superior Court judges initially approved the appointment, but they later revoked their approval after receiving additional information they said might have affected their initial decision.
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Handsford was indicted in 2004 after allegations surfaced that she had accepted “love offerings” to perform weddings at the courthouse during work hours, a violation of the law. The criminal case against her ultimately was dropped. She resigned and paid restitution.
Randall said at the time that he didn’t mention the “love offering” case to the Superior Court judges when he submitted Handsford’s name for appointment because he viewed the matter as an administrative violation.
A year later, Randall said he still doesn’t agree with the judges’ decision to take back their approval for the appointment.
“I think she would have made a good judge,” he said. “I think it was much to do about nothing.”
Court records show Randall didn’t make another appointment before the position was frozen.
He plans to request that the position be unfrozen when annual budget negotiations begin this spring.
“I don’t anticipate any problems with that,” Randall said.
In the meantime, the remaining four magistrates and Randall are doing the work they ordinarily would share with an additional judge.
And the caseload hasn’t decreased, he said.
Randall cited hard economic times for the reason behind an uptick in civil cases being filed against people who can’t pay their bills.
“We’re working through it, but we could certainly use the position,” Randall said.
Sheriff Jerry Modena said the jail population hasn’t been affected by having one fewer magistrate to set bonds.
Inmates still are going before a judge six days a week for bond hearings, he said.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.