Wrangling continues in Walker County-state judge pay dispute

Wrangling continues in Walker County-state judge pay dispute

December 22nd, 2012 by Tim Omarzu in Local Regional News

Bruce E. Roberts

LaFAYETTE, Ga. - Legal wrangling continues over the civil lawsuit filed by State Court Judge Bruce E. Roberts contending that Walker County owes him $72,000 in pay.

Walker County judges have recused themselves from the case.

On Dec. 14, Roberts' Summerville, Ga.-based attorney, Archibald Farrar Jr., emailed the judge who will preside, Senior Georgia Superior Courts Judge Larry Salmon, of Rome, Ga., suggesting a meeting.

"I will be happy to come to Rome at your convenience and I am sure [county attorney] Don Oliver would be accommodating also," Farrar emailed the judge. He copied Oliver on the message.

On Dec. 18, Oliver filed a motion in Walker County Civil Court blasting the email as a "blatant attempt to improperly control and misdirect" court procedure.

Oliver also wrote that Roberts hadn't yet responded to Oliver's request for Roberts' salary records for the two years before he took the judgeship, proof from Roberts that he agreed to be paid at a rate of $100,000 per year and copies of Roberts' federal and state tax returns for the past three years.

Roberts' lawsuit claims he should have earned the same pay as retired incumbent Judge C. Donald Peppers Sr., whom Roberts was appointed on Oct. 3 to replace. An incumbent judge's salary can't be reduced during the term of appointment, his lawsuit argues.

Oliver contends that Roberts accepted a $100,000 annual salary from Sole County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell, who said Roberts didn't warrant Peppers' $163,000 annual salary because Roberts was a new judge and didn't have Peppers' 26 years of experience.

Oliver alleges that Roberts lied to Heiskell when he said he was making $94,000 annually as an assistant district attorney for the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit.

The county got Roberts' federal W-2 forms showing his annual pay in 2011 was $81,071 and in 2010 was $85,297.

Neither Roberts nor Oliver has wanted to discuss the lawsuit before it's heard in court.