The town’s judge recently exercised his authority to appoint a magistrate to keep the court functioning. Joseph Thomas was appointed on a temporary basis and has been working with city officials to sort through the records and files left by the former magistrate.
In addition to sorting out the records, Thomas is able to sign dockets and warrants to keep the court and police department functioning, and the city hopes to set a court date for August to take care of the cases that were slated to be heard in June and July.
He prepared a report for the council, although he and the mayor cautioned that they are still sorting through the records. Mayor Dennis Welch also said that it had become clear that the court and the city would be forced to take a financial loss because of the state of the court records.
“We’re going to have a loss, regardless of who has the job, we’re going to have a loss,” Welch said. “It’s just something we’re going to have to bite the bullet and take. The most disturbing aspect of this is that there was a substantial amount of money, and Joseph ended up running across even more than Deanna (Woods) and myself did.”
Welch declined to give a specific amount of money found in the magistrate’s office, but said it was more than $1,000. He also said they had found reports from the past that were to be sent in to the state but had never been sent out. Although Welch expressed frustration with the court, he did commend Thomas on the progress he had made so far.
“There has been more progress made in the last two weeks than has been made in the last three and a half years,” Welch said. “And when I said progress, I don’t mean everything is paid up, it just means that we pretty much know where we stand. We’ve still got some issues.”
In other business:
•The council voted to accept a policy handbook for the police department at the urging of the city’s insurance carrier.
•The council discussed an outstanding bill from city attorney Charles Tatum and decided to ask for a current bill so they could begin working on paying him.
•Blake Powell will be graduating Thursday from the police academy and will be able to work as an Oakman officer.