‘Love offering’ judge back at desk; ties to Randall family uncovered

A former Bibb County magistrate rehired six years after resigning in connection with a “love offering” scandal was back in the office Thursday, despite a court order a day earlier that rescinded her new appointment.

Selinda D. Handsford, 38, wasn’t talking with anyone, however, a Bibb County Magistrate Court clerk said. Messages left for Handsford on two court phone lines were not returned Thursday, and Chief Magistrate William C. “Billy” Randall declined comment on the situation.

Four of the five Bibb County Superior Court judges who initially OK’d Randall’s reappointment of Handsford Monday revoked their consent in an order issued late Wednesday, saying they had received additional information that might have affected their decision.

A new personnel file hasn’t been created for Handsford, and payroll documents have not yet been filed, according to the Bibb County Human Resources Department.

County attorney Virgil Adams said he couldn’t comment on whether Handsford would be paid for any work this week because it’s a personnel matter.

On Wednesday, Randall said he wasn’t going to make further comments until he had talked with the Judicial Qualifications Commission, a state agency that investigates allegations of judicial misconduct. He indicated that there had been communication between the commission and his office.

Handsford’s association with the Randall family dates to 1993, according to personnel records related to her employment as a magistrate from June 17, 2002, to Dec. 30, 2004.

From 1993 to 1995, she worked as a “constituent care worker” in U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop’s office in Albany, and Lance J. Randall was her supervisor, according to documents in the file. Billy Randall is Lance Randall’s father.

One document included in her hiring paperwork for Bibb County listed Lance Randall, 44, as Handsford’s fiance, emergency contact and beneficiary for insurance and pension purposes. A 2004 record also listed him as the beneficiary for Handsford’s insurance policy.

The file also includes an Aug. 14, 2004, notice of suspension issued by the Judicial Qualifications Commission and paperwork pertaining to Handsford’s being placed on administrative leave on July 14, 2004.

She resigned voluntarily Dec. 30, 2004. A form documenting the resignation includes two boxes -- yes or no -- to indicate whether an employee is eligible for rehire. Neither box was checked.

At the time of her resignation, Handsford was paid a gross salary of about $48,000 a year, according to records.

She graduated from Mercer University with an English degree in 1995 and received a law degree from John Marshall Law School in Atlanta in 1998, according to a résumé included in her personnel file.

After working for Bishop, she served as an intern at the Bibb County District Attorney’s Office, worked as an administrative assistant for a church, a law clerk for Mike Cranford and as an assistant public defender in Houston County before being hired as a magistrate in 2002.

Handsford was indicted in Bibb County Superior Court on July 13, 2004, on one count of violation of oath of office and eight counts of theft by taking after allegations that she took cash from couples to perform wedding ceremonies during work hours in 2003.

The criminal case against her was later dismissed after Handsford resigned from her position and paid restitution.

Randall has said that he didn’t mention the “love offering” case to the Superior Court judges when he submitted Handsford’s name for appointment. He said he didn’t see the need, since he viewed the matter as an administrative violation. No information about the “love offerings” is included in the court documents pertaining to the appointment.

Because the matter of Handsford’s appointment still is pending, the Superior Court judges are prohibited from making any public comment about the appointment due to the Code of Judicial Conduct, according to the judges’ order.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.