City Ink: Retiring chief judge leaves solid legacy

When asked how he’d like to be remembered after he retires in July, Richmond County State Court Chief Judge Richard Slaby laughed and said he didn’t know if anybody would remember him.

 

“You know what they say,” he said. “Once you leave your office and the plaques and everything else is gone, the next thing you know, no one remembers who you were.”

But seriously, Slaby, who has presided over thousands of cases during six years as Recorder’s Court judge, 17 years as Juvenile Court judge and 20 years as State Court judge, wants to be remembered this way:

“As a fair individual who treated everybody who came in front of me respectfully,” he said.

Slaby spearheaded the creation of the Richmond County Probation Office, which replaced the private probation company Sentinel Offender Services. He also guided the new office through a controversy over certification for probation officers by getting state law changed this year to allow for both certified and noncertified probation officers.

The judge is heartened that four officers recently completed the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training courses, he said.

“The one thing I wanted to make sure is that they could become certified and improve their lives,” he said. “And the probation officers that aren’t POST-certified will have the opportunity to get that training over time.”

Slaby, this year’s president of the Council of State Court Judges, has been chief judge for seven years. He’ll be succeeded by State Court Judge David Watkins.

Boogity! Boogity! Boogity!: While we hate to see the judge go, there are some other things in Augusta that need to be retired and would hardly be missed at all.

A drag strip proposal by any other commissioner is still Commissioner Marion Williams’ toy. And everybody at Tuesday’s administrative services committee meeting who heard Commissioner Ben Hasan’s pitch to resurrect Williams’ 2006 push to build a drag strip in south Augusta knew it.

It was a good show, though. Hasan was there speaking in favor of the drag strip, and Williams, who’d said he wouldn’t speak on it, wasn’t able to resist.

“Nobody ever refuted the fact that it had potential for this community,” Hasan said.

Hasan cited commission actions of 2006 authorizing a $25,000 study and later authorizing the administrator to move forward with the project.

“I’m asking us to allocate $25,000 to $30,000 to do a study,” Hasan said.

Commissioner Andrew Jefferson said he’d love to see a drag strip, but that a study had already been done that didn’t go anywhere.

“And we turn around and do another study. That will be hard to swallow,” he said. “The facts were there in the first study.”

“Let me respond,” said Williams, breaking his vow of silence. “I think we’ve spent enough on studies. We spent $25,000, and we still ain’t gonna do nothing. If that’s a feasible moneymaking thing for Augusta, there are other ways to find out whether it’s feasible without spending a lot of money.

“I said I wasn’t going to address it,” he said.

But it was too late because he already had.

“Go to Charlotte,” he continued. “People are building million-dollar houses around the racetrack in Charlotte.”

“I’m ready to go,” said Hasan, doing an about-face. “I don’t need a study. I’m for it. I just thought it would make it more (palatable).”

“Somebody make a motion,” said Williams.

It was time to do something.

“I think the safest thing to do is to make a motion to receive it as information,” Jefferson said.

“That means you don’t think it’s feasible,” said Williams. “The information has been here 10 years.”

Receiving it as information would end the proposal then and there, he said, whereas sending it to the full commission without a recommendation would not.

“That’s better than receiving it as information,” Williams said.

So they voted to send to the full commission without a recommendation.

There’s No Such Thing as a Free Inmate: Another thing that needs to be retired is the idea that inmate labor is free, along with eight commissioners since Hasan and Commissioner Sammie Sias are running everything. At least that’s what folks are saying.

Sias wants to bring the city’s demolition program in-house and for the most part stop using private contractors. So he said he asked Administrator Janice Allen Jackson to research the city’s old in-house demolition program and come up with a proposal for a new one. And last week when Jackson proposed starting the in-house program on abandoned houses in Hyde Park, which the city owns and plans to turn into a detention pond, Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle took exception to being left out of the conversation.

“You and Commissioner Sias have been working hand-in-hand for the past month,” he said. “The other nine commissioners didn’t know anything about it.”

(Actually, it was only eight since Hasan, as he subsequently revealed, was also integrally involved in the plan.)

“I don’t like being caught off-guard and then be accused of being negative,” Guilfoyle fumed. “I’m not trying to be negative. The questions I asked today, I was writing down sitting here listening to you and Commissioner Sias ….

“This is a problem for me, and it’s probably a problem for my colleagues. Two-and-a-half years ago, I met with you and told you what I wanted done in my district. Nothing has been done. And I don’t have your undivided attention, Madam Administrator.”

The current demolition program uses local businesses and has been successful, Guilfoyle said.

Commissioner Sean Frantom said he agreed with some of what Guilfoyle said and was concerned about workers’ compensation claims and potential liability of the in-house program.

Meanwhile, Hasan took exception to Guilfoyle’s statement about Jackson showing favoritism.

“We gathered this information ourselves,” he said. “Ms. Jackson didn’t gather it.”

Hasan said he’d researched the old in-house program and had talked to former Richmond County Correctional Institution Warden Robert Leverette, who said it had been a successful program.

“So this is not Ms. Jackson having undivided attention,” he continued. “We gathered this information ourselves. And it’s doing a disservice to say otherwise.”

A committee vote to begin the program failed 2-2, so it goes to the full commission this week without a recommendation.

Why Stop With Inmate Labor and Eight Commissioners?: While we’re at it, why don’t we retire the mayor? I mean, what does he really do except travel, spend money, make speeches, pose for photos and hire an office full of folks? To do what? Make his travel reservations?

Back By Popular Demand: I was listening to Republican U.S. Rep. Jody Hice being interviewed on the radio while driving home from Augusta last week, and the subject of replacing Obamacare came up. Hice was asked whether the country was too far gone into government-run health care that it could never return to a private system like we had before, and he said it was. He said even President Trump had acknowledged that.

When I got home, I told Ernie about the interview, and he said that was bunk.

Ernie said, “All you’ve got to do is say, ‘This coming Thursday, this program ends. If you want to have insurance after Thursday, go out and get it before Thursday because after Thursday, this is over. We’re not paying for it anymore.

“And if you don’t have enough money to buy insurance and lottery tickets, you might want to cut back on the lottery tickets.’ ”

Richmond County State Court Chief Judge Slaby to retire
 

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