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Judges ask commission to reconsider furloughs

Shutting down the Dougherty County court system one day a month could have unintended consequences, judges told the County Commission finance committee this morning.

One of the cost-saving moves commissioners are looking at is 12 furlough days in the fiscal year that begins July 1 for all county employees. Most of that would come from unpaid holidays such as Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, but employees would have to miss a day of work some months to reach the target number of 12.

At a commission finance committee meeting this morning, Superior Court Chief Judge Willie Lockette and Probate Judge Nancy Stephenson said the state mandates when court-related offices have to been open for public access.

Stephenson said that if the commission orders reduction in pay for her staff or implements the furlough days during regular business hours, it would force her to violate her oath of office.

Commissioners were also told that closing the court offices on days when they were mandated to be open could have an impact on individuals' Fourth Amendment rights and would affect statutory deadlines under which the court system operates.

Commissioners have said that all options are still on the table for discussion, but that cost savings have to be found for the FY 2011 budget plan.

The committee is expected to present its budget recommendations to the full County Commission on Wednesday. The commission will have to adopt its FY 2011 spending plan before the end of June.