Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Accountability court effort led to legal woes for Probate Court judge

CONYERS — An application for arrest warrants against a Rockdale County judge is directly linked to the judge’s effort to establish an accountability court — something he is not legally qualified to do.

The warrant application, filed in Superior Court on Monday by Freya Pearson, alleges that Probate Court Judge Charles K. Mays Sr. knew that he could not legally operate an accountability court but continued to employ her as a consultant on the project anyway. Pearson is alleging two counts of theft of services against Mays for failure to pay her nearly $20,000 in back wages.

Pearson, represented by Conyers attorney Michael Waldrop, also alleges that Mays committed two counts of theft by deception by using state and county money in pursuit of establishing an accountability court, again while knowing he could not legally run the court.

Mays did not respond to a Citizen request for comment about his efforts to establish an accountability court or about his eligibility to operate such a court.

Rockdale County’s Probate Court submitted an application for an accountability court grant to the state Criminal Justice Coordinating Council on March 25. The grant proposal requested nearly $360,000, which would have required a 10 percent local match. The grant request was ultimately denied.

According to the proposal, the funds would have been used to fund a full-time program coordinator position at $82,400; a part-time program assistant at $23,514 and a part-time community outreach employee at $22,131, in addition to supplies, furniture, travel, conferences, and contract services for surveillance and mental health services.

Pearson alleges that about two months after the grant application was filed — between May and June — Mays took her and another woman, who was not a Probate Court employee, to California “for the purported purpose of obtaining information for a mental health court and/or a veterans court …” Pearson claims that Mays used about $8,000 in funds from the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to fund the trip.

Pearson further alleges that she also traveled to North Carolina at Mays’ direction to observe a mental health court in action.

Pearson claims in the warrant application that Mays was advised by Chief Superior Court Judge David Irwin on two separate occasions — both before and after the five-day California trip — that Mays was “legally prohibited from operating either of those courts.”

A letter from Irwin to Rockdale County Finance Director Roselyn Miller, dated June 6, supports that allegation. In the letter, Irwin outlined the jurisdiction of the Probate Court in Rockdale County and stated, “In larger counties (population), probate judges have the authority to hold jury trials in certain cases. Rockdale County is not one of those counties.”

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1 comment:

Beth said...

It appears to me that he took on this project in good faith though.