County hires counsel following judge's directive

Oct 17, 2012

Citing a conflict of interest, Hamilton County Commissioners are hiring an outside attorney to represent the county and a juvenile court employee.

Judge Tracie Hunter
Credit Hamilton County Juvenile Court

The move stems from Judge Tracie Hunter's directive that a second court administrator be hired immediately at a salary of almost $107,000. Hunter says a second administrator is needed because she believes the current administrator is working only for the other juvenile judge, John Williams.

Commission President Greg Hartmann says it's unclear who has authority to order such a hiring.

"It's my firm belief that the administrative judge is John Williams, one of two Juvenile Court Judges, but we need to have a higher authority establish that and we need to do it immediately. Because this order, as every order does, places contempt in the realm of possibility."

Earlier this year, Williams intervened when Hunter reprimanded Administrator Curt Kissinger. Normally the prosecutor's office would represent the county but his office says it's clear Judge Hunter won't follow his advice, therefore the office can't advise both sides.

Hunter's hiring directive comes at a time when the county is looking for cuts to fill a $20 million deficit. She's also requested an estimate for more than $84,000 in facility upgrades to her courtroom. That request hasn't been reviewed by commissioners. The county's facilities director says such estimate requests aren't unusual.