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An agreement has been reached in Tuscola's security standoff
Mary Drier PM PBTC
Fri, 14 Jan 2022 15:46:17 EST
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By agreeing to Tuscola County Circuit Judge Amy Grace Gierhart's terms on Thursday, commissioners averted a proposed lawsuit. Under a compromise the county will move the money from the sheriff's budget to the courthouse budget for bailiffs, leave it up to the judge to hire bailiffs and for them to be under Gierhart's jurisdiction. After a 45 minute closed session to consult with their attorney, commissioners approved the settlement offer from Gierhart and to have the agreement drafted and signed as soon as possible. Overall the agreement provides a total of $279,644 for the court's budget for security. Within hours of Thursday's agreement being reached, Gierhart posted a hiring notice for bailiffs on the website http://www.tuscolacounty.org/employment. The bailiff's job will be for 37.50 hours per week and include benefits. The deadline to apply is Jan. 27. The issue between the courts and commissioners started back during the latter months of 2021. The judge told commissioners several times she wanted three full-time bailiffs in order to provide security, but when commissioners approved the 2022 budget they only appropriated enough to fund two bailiffs. After that happened, Gierhart issued a notice that she along with District Judge Jason Bitzer and Probate - Family Court Judge Nancy Thane were invoking their authority under a state statute that requires the sheriff to provide sufficient deputies to serve as court bailiffs, or face fines. Gierhart also put commissioners on notice that she was willing to take legal action to get a bailiff for each of the three courtrooms in order to assure courthouse, courtroom, and staff safety. The judges took exception to commissioners shifting $50,000 in funds in this year's county's budget that the courts had previously used to hire independent bailiffs in the past to the sheriff's department. Although the money was still earmarked for court security, the sheriff's department can't immediately produce officers to fill those positions. The sheriff's department is short- staffed and has been for a while, and recruiting law enforcement officers has been a struggle for all agencies across the state. The bailiffs' positions were eliminated when the courts shut down in 2021 due to the COVID pandemic. Now that the courts are back in session, Gierhart wants the bailiffs positions filled, and filled due to the increase of security issues in and around the courthouse.