functional

Judge Vess threatened with lawsuit during court

Published 12:09am Friday, January 25, 2013

NATCHEZ — Just moments after Justice Court Judge Charlie Vess finished talking to two young women in his courtroom about settling disputes amicably without entering the legal system, the court clerk reportedly stepped into the room to tell the judge she was going to seek legal action against him.

Justice Court Clerk Audrey Bailey’s comments came after Vess spoke from the bench earlier Thursday morning to two Adams County supervisors — David Carter and Mike Lazarus — who were in attendance about how he felt like the court administration was not working with him to schedule contempt of court hearings.

“I was in session, and I was trying to arraign some prisoners and do some other stuff, and (Bailey) came to the door,” he said. “I was filling out the paperwork, I looked over and she told me she was not happy with my comments and that she would be seeking a lawyer and filing a slander suit against me.”

Bailey declined to comment Thursday afternoon about what she said in the courtroom.

Vess has been scheduling special days to have contempt of court hearings in an effort to collect back fines owed to the county. While the judge can schedule contempt of court hearings, he said it is the job of the clerk to notify those who need to appear.

When speaking from the bench after no one appeared for the contempt hearings, Vess said he was considering no longer scheduling them.

“I am willing to give my time, but I could be out rabbit hunting or seeing my grandchildren instead of doing a whole lot of nothing,” he said.

Vess also said that when the supervisors — to whom the justice court staff answers — instructed the clerk’s office to provide him with a list of those who owed fines, the list that was given to him had 200 names from 2009, and all of those listed had paid their fines.

“I am willing to write that off as an honest mistake,” he said. “But imagine what would have happened if I had issued warrants for all those people, the sheriff’s office took the time and the cost to arrest them, and then it turned out they had already paid their fines?”

But Vess also said he was considering asking the state auditor’s office to look at the list of names.

“This shows these people as paid, so where is the money?” he said.

Bailey said that any comments the judge made relating to her job performance were “baseless.” She also said that despite any disagreement she had with the judge she did not anticipate any problem in the operations of the court.

“I always do my job,” she said. “I have no hard feelings against anybody.”

Vess said he was willing to let the incident go if Bailey would apologize.

“Court was in session, and I could have held her in direct contempt, but I will be happy with an apology,” he said. “She has been a 17-year employee and knows that there are other methods she could have used to express her displeasure with me, but I know that sometimes people get upset.

“If she carries through with her threat to file a slander suit against me, I will meet it in court and do it the legal way.”

The judge said that based on information he has gathered from Receivable Solutions Specialists, the county’s appointed debt collection agency tasked with collecting fines, the county has approximately $3.84 million in outstanding fines owed it.

RSS collects the fines at no cost to the county. Instead, those who pay their fines also pay a processing fee to RSS.

Lazarus said that after Thursday the supervisors would have to discuss the issue.

“That is not a really good environment, and that is something that needs to be resolved for the good of the county,” he said. “We have got to move forward with getting those overdue fines collected, and we have to do this with whoever is there.”

Lazarus said that as supervisor he has never had to deal with a situation where a county employee threatened to sue an elected official.

The supervisors will meet today to discuss fire protection, but Lazarus said he expects the justice court issue will also be discussed.

  • Anonymous

    How many other departments in the county/city governments have to operate with the department heads not having their subordinates working for them? This is just like deputies/tax collector clerks/road crews/ etc. working for the BOS rather than the Sheriff/tax collector/road manager etc. Vess is at least making a valid attempt to resolve this worsening situation without any help from either the other justice court judges nor the staff working with Ms. Bailey. Most at fault here is the BOS which has been well aware of this situation likely even before it was initially reported here in the ND about a year ago with the balance of outstanding fines reported at around $2MM. We have been operating with a collection agency that has let the balance grow to almost $4MM during one year! Bailey needs to be fired for not having taken ANY action to support Vess’ action while she and her clerks were given a raise last year by the BOS. If the taxpayers don’t take note of this outcome and vote a different direction next election, we are doomed. This is another example that LEL Lillie has to follow – “You can’t tell me how to do my job”.

  • Anonymous

    List of 200 people, and all were paid! And, no money was collected. Something ain’t right.

  • Anonymous

    Adding to that and my biggest concern is that a list that was produced seemingly of the names of folk who hadn’t paid their fines, was given to a judge who could have very well issued warrants on these people and had them wrongfully arrested!!! That alone is wrong! In a time where people really need good jobs, solid jobs with great scedules, I’ll say Ms. Bailey should do whatever she can to assist in this process. We all have to multitask on jobs. Anyone working one knows this. I’ve never had a job where I just did or gave my attention to what I wanted. Being flexible enough to wear many hats is something ALL parties involved here can stand. Oh, and letting go of egos will as well.

  • Anonymous

    Either the money was truly not collected or it was pocketed.

  • Anonymous

    I agree.

  • Anonymous

    Just walk into the front door of Justice Court dept. and observe the atmosphere.
    To many playing with their phones and socializing to notice your even there.
    All around terrible attitudes!

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    Very interesting huh’??!! We were told(TAXPAYERS) that non collected fines of the past it was a million dollars, a month ago its 2 million and this A/M its almost 4 million dollars so , this tells you that the system is broke down that the seed germinates with the BOS’s not doing their jobs!!! Lazarus and Carter need to be thanked for this stimulation of this court play and I owe Judge Vess a apology from my past comments of him not doing his job! While the employees working for the courts of hear sayers seem to be coming to life and I hope Bailey does go to court with a jury to clean this one office up and the taxpayers know exactly whats going onto get the burden of truth needs to happen!! Mean while we need to get all judges in Adams county to start collecting this 4 million in fines and putting folks in jail !! Also, we need to get the Ms. state auditor on this case as well as the AG and possible check the city and county other offices that collect any monies to be audited as well!! Bailey needs to be put on leave without pay till this is investigated and a court plea come out of this to see whom is guilty and not!!!

  • Karma is a muthafau

    No apology Bailey lawyer it should be the system been wicked

  • Anonymous

    Adams county and the city have attorneys just for this reason. This crap of political correctness has got to stop. It’s apparant this woman isn’t doing her job. For her to shoot her mouth off to her superior, much less a judge, she should have been held in contempt and sent to jail. The BOS better do the right thing and FIRE this woman. She may very well loose her retirement because of this. I REALLY want to know where the money is…. she wouldn’t be the first one to embezzle a few million dollars over a 15 year period… Can you say AUDIT????

  • Anonymous

    Forgive me for asking….but….WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY ?????

  • Anonymous

    007 in disguise………….

  • Anonymous

    Maybe she was trying to show those whose records were cleared on the books but never paid a dime? Rats in the courthouse!

  • couchtater

    when was the last time you were in there? Terrible attitudes from who? Apparently you must have not been in there recently. I have been there several times and have not seen either one of the front clerks have a bad attitude with any of the public.. needless to say socializing could be also mistaken for them discussing an issue or needing assistance with a problem..

  • Anonymous

    Audit!

  • Anonymous

    What a waist of tax payers money!………………. “When speaking from the bench after no one appeared for the contempt hearings, Vess said he was considering no longer scheduling them.”