Pike County Times
The Pike County Times, PO Box 843, Zebulon, Georgia 30295. Click here to donate through PayPal. Becky Watts: Phone # 770-468-7583 editor@pikecountytimes.com
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Magistrate Court Attorney Argues Lawsuit Against Pike County
By Editor Becky Watts

ZEBULON - In a two hour presentation before Superior Court Judge Stephen E. Boswell on June 19, 2012, attorneys on both sides of Marcia Callaway-Ingram v. Pike County Georgia argued their cases before a courtroom audience that included two reporters and one Pike County commissioner.

[Note from the Editor: I received some information this afternoon (June 21, 2012) related to the suspension of the associate magistrate that puts a different light on this article so I added this documentation as well as a summary and links from past articles into this one so the article would be understandable in light of litigation that has been ongoing for the past two years.]

A. Lee Parks from Atlanta argued the case on the behalf of Chief Magistrate Marcia Callaway-Ingram. He was assisted by Jenn Colson and they sat on either side of the Chief Magistrate in front of the courtroom on the right. Donald A. Cronin from McDonough spoke on the behalf of Pike County since Attorney Rob Morton, who accompanied him on the left side of the courtroom, has been appointed as Interim County Manager for Pike County.

Much of the argument between the parties has been argued before the court in previous briefs in “Pike County v. Loretta Rakestraw” and “Marcia Callaway-Ingram v. Pike County Georgia”. There has been a deposition in this case in which Chairman Doug Mangham, past County Manager Bill Sawyer, and Chief Magistrate Marcia Callaway-Ingram were questioned on the record. Links to prior articles about these lawsuits and county commission meetings are at the end of this article.

Verbal arguments were presented to the judge from Chief Magistrate Callaway-Ingram's and then the county presented a rebuttal. The judge asked questions at the end of each presentation and Chief Magistrate Callaway-Ingram’s attorney was allowed to have a final rebuttal. The case that was presented boiled down to a few basic issues that seem to be intertwined with litigation that has spanned the past couple of years in Pike County.

Does Chief Magistrate Callaway-Ingram have the authority to run her own office without interference from the Board of Commissioners? She contends that there were two full-time magistrate judges when she began and then the associate magistrate position was reduced to part-time without her consent. She also contends that the full-time civil clerk was reduced to part-time without her consent. She argues that this was done without an operational study being done to ensure that Magistrate Court was doing its job effectively for citizens. Mr. Parks also stated that Chairman Doug Mangham said in his deposition that the past county manager, Bill Sawyer, told him that an operational study had been done and that the county could do without these full-time positions while the Chief Magistrate has repeatedly advised verbally and in writing for two budget cycles that the amount in her budget was not sufficient. Click here to read where it was noted that Judge Callaway-Ingram asked the commissioners for more funding in her budget in the May 29, 2012 commission meeting.

Her attorney also argued that she was working the job of two full-time magistrates at one point while the associate magistrate on an extended vacation or suspended from her position depending upon which side of the courtroom presented the information before the judge. Chief Magistrate Callaway-Ingram contended in the Rakestraw Hearing that Associate Magistrate Rakestraw abandoned her position when she took a vacation without prior notice or approval from August 13, 2010 through the first week of September 2010. However, Pike County Times has received documentation--specifically a letter dated September 2, 2010 and other documentation--that shows Associate Magistrate Rakestraw was suspended from her position by Chief Magistrate Callaway-Ingram. The court ruled on this issue in part in "Pike County v. Rakestraw". Click here to read “Rakestraw Reinstated Associate Magistrate”. In the writ of mandamus that Judge Callaway-Ingram filed against the county, Judge Callaway-Ingram asked for the return of the full-time magistrate position as well as asking for back pay with interest and attorney's fees for the chief magistrate position.

In response to the complaint about this complaint about the associate magistrate, Mr. Cronin pointed out that the power to discipline and remove an associate magistrate is reserved for the Judicial Qualifications Commission and noted specifically that the chief magistrate cannot discipline the associate magistrate for desiring to work less than forty hours per week according to OCGA 15-10-23(a)(5). He also pointed out that that the county can only pay Associate Magistrate Rakestraw for full-time hours if she works full-time hours.

Exhibit 13 by Mr. Parks showed a difference between the budget allocations for the various courts/departments in Pike County between the 8 month and 12 month budget cycles with Superior Court receiving over 100% for the 12 month budget, the District Attorney’s Office receiving 140%, Probate Court receiving 133% and the Sheriff’s Office receiving 158% compared to the previous year. He accused the county of balancing the budget on the back of Magistrate while no other court in the county was cut as much as Magistrate Court and that her budget was $9,000 less on the 12 month budget than it was for the 8 month budget cycle the year before.

He also said that the budget for the commission office was cut more than Magistrate Court, at 91%, and that the lawsuit involving Associate Magistrate Rakestraw was filed by the county to determine whether her appointment was rescinded with the resignation of the past chief magistrate. He reiterated that the Rakestraw lawsuit was filed before the current chief magistrate was hired and that the associate magistrate was awarded a summary judgment in that case.

From the 11.18.11 article entitled “Rakestraw Reinstated Associate Magistrate”: Pike County asked the court to rule whether the Associate Magistrate's ability to serve was dependent upon the continued service of the Chief Magistrate who appointed her. The Court ruled that the resignation of Former Chief Magistrate Priscilla Killingsworth did not cause the term of office for her Associate Magistrate to end and stated that it does not allow the current Chief Magistrate to appoint an Associate Magistrate of her choosing in the place of the current Associate Magistrate Judge. The Court also declared that the Chief Magistrate Court Judge who is elected next year will be able to make a choice as to who will serve as Associate Magistrate when the next term of office begins on January 1, 2013.

The Chief Magistrate argued, through her attorney, that the county interfered with the running of her office when some of the applications were held up in the County Commission office while the Chief Magistrate was hiring for a position in her office in July of 2011. The county says that there were two applications involved in this allegation but, according to Judge Callaway-Ingram’s deposition, the Chief Magistrate interviewed both of these applicants along with the other applicants and hired her according to her preference. It was also said in her deposition that the chief magistrate was satisfied with the level of staffing in February of 2012 when the deposition was taken. This was while the associate magistrate was working part-time.

Is Chief Magistrate Callaway-Ingram entitled to the exact same amount of pay that Chief Magistrate Killingsworth was receiving? Even if this salary includes mandatory 5% longevity/step raises that were on top of the base salary with step raises being based on the number of terms that Chief Killingsworth had been in office? Judge Callaway-Ingram contends that she agreed to a salary of $49,182 while she wound down her law practice but that the permanent salary was supposed to be the entire salary of around $63,000 that the former chief magistrate had been making.

Pike County’s attorney, Donald Cronin, advised that a salary can be reduced during a vacancy in office but not after a replacement takes the office. Chief Magistrate Killingsworth was receiving a state-mandated longevity bonus of 5% for every four years of service on top of the minimum salary for chief magistate in Pike County. He also pointed out that, according to the Chief Magistrate Callaway-Ingram’s deposition, she agreed to an original salary of $49,182 in negotiations with the county before she took this position and that her salary has not changed since she became chief magistrate. He cited Georgia law as the minimum annual salary for this position and said that one can’t assume more than the minimum of the law.

Chief Magistrate Callaway-Ingram’s attorney argued that she is entitled to attorney’s fees for representation because there is a conflict between her office and the county and the county attorney cannot represent both her and the county. He said that there were numerous requisitions for payment to past County Manager Bill Sawyer and his response to one of the requests was a written note by Mr. Sawyer that said, “Your request is denied!! Have a good day.” He said that county government has animosity toward the Chief Magistrate and that no one questions that she has done the work in that office but has saddled her court with extreme budget cuts at every turn. He asked the court for judicial intervention “to make the county behave”.

Judge Boswell asked some hard questions of both sides after each attorney spoke. At one point he laid out several different scenarios as possibilities in this case and then said to the Chief Magistrate’s attorney, “You’re not going to like anything I do.” This hearing basically presented evidence from the Chief Magistrate that will be put into written form and returned to Pike County Superior Court on July 9, 2012 along with a response that will be presented from the county as the defendant. Judge Boswell will make a decision after he reviews the responses from both sides of this case. Click on the following links to get more information about this case.

Click here to read about the mandamus filed against Pike County--Marcia Callaway-Ingram v. Pike County Georgia. This is from the 9.14.11 Board of Commissioners Meeting.

Click here to read “Commissioners Authorize Negotiation to Resolve Loretta Rakestraw Lawsuit”.

Click here to read “Rakestraw Reinstated Associate Magistrate”.

Click here to read where Judge Callaway-Ingram asked the commissioners for more funding in her budget in the May 29, 2012 commission meeting.