Consent order: Bibb Probate Court employees to receive back pay

Three Bibb County Probate Court employees are set to receive a combined $5,574 in back pay after a consent order signed by a south Georgia judge.

Probate Judge William J. “Bill” Self II filed a petition in Bibb County Superior Court in February, arguing that although county commissioners set his budget, the board doesn’t have authority to say how the judge pays his employees.

Self approved raises in 2011 and 2012 for four Probate Court employees, but commissioners didn’t increase their pay. The raises didn’t exceed the court budget, according to the petition.

County Attorney Virgil Adams said the commissioners and the county’s constitutional officers -- the tax commissioner, Superior Court clerk, sheriff and Probate Court judge -- have used a a long-standing policy in which constitutional officers’ employees were treated the same as other county employees, using county personnel policies and procedures.

“When all county employees got raises, they got raises,” Adams said.

But the law says constitutional officers can spend money in their budgets as they wish, unless they agree in writing to follow county personnel policies, he said.

“Legally, the commissioners can’t tell (Self) how to spend his money,” Adams said.

Bibb County recently revised its personnel policies and procedures.

All the county’s constitutional officers except Self have agreed to use the revised county policies with the exception of hiring and firing policies, Adams said.

Self said it’s his obligation to stand up for his elected office, a post he’s held for 23 years.

“I’m not going to surrender my office and constitutional rights ... to their control because they don’t like the law,” he said.

The county’s constitutional officers work for the same constituents as the commissioners, although the constitutional officers are elected countywide instead of by district, Self said.

He said he’s insulted that the commissioners would suggest that he’d use his power to abuse taxpayers’ trust by spending their money wastefully.

Self noted that attorneys fees for litigating the petition are higher than the back pay due to employees.

Earlier this year, Self announced that he plans to retire at the end of his term in December.

He said the raises he approved for Probate Court employees didn’t have anything to do with his retirement.

In filing the petition in February, Self asked a judge to require the commissioners to pay for the salary increases.

Bibb County’s Superior Court judges disqualified themselves from the case and requested an outside judge.

Judge Richard J. Porter III, of the South Georgia Judicial Circuit, signed a consent order in the case Monday in which Self and the county commissioners agreed that three employees would receive back pay, according to the order.

Commissioners approved an increase in pay for the fourth employee named in the petition before the consent order was issued, Self said.

“They claimed it was a miscommunication on their side,” he said.

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