Hamilton County commissioners fire magistrate for poor performance

Hamilton County commissioners fire magistrate for poor performance

Commissioners vote to fire magistrate

September 12th, 2018 by Judy Walton in Breaking News

Updated at 5:05 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, with more information.

After voting Wednesday to fire a judicial commissioner for poor job performance, Hamilton County commissioners are hoping to fill the open slot by Oct. 3.

Commissioners voted 9-0 to fire Stuart Brown after his supervisor brought new paperwork she said documented multiple serious mistakes on his part on search warrants and bond documents.

The vote came after a Security and Corrections Committee meeting in which chief magistrate Lorrie Miller and Brown each were asked to speak about his performance.

Miller brought a sheaf of paperwork and said Brown made mistakes despite more than 130 hours of training and even after commissioners voted on Aug. 29 to keep him on the job.

She said that over the weekend Brown signed a warrant for a blood draw in a DUI arrest even though the officer's sworn affidavit never said the defendant was driving.

"This is a catastrophic error; this evidence will be thrown out, I guarantee you. This is extreme liability on the county," Miller said. "I'm renewing my recommendation, urging this body to terminate Stuart and find someone else to take his place."

Brown was more than 30 minutes late, although his attorney was present for part of the committee meeting. Though the committee meeting was called for 8:30 a.m., he said he'd been told to arrive at 9:15.

Brown told commissioners he didn't think he'd made any mistakes in his recent work, and that his fellow magistrates told him he was doing the job correctly.

When Vice Chairman Randy Fairbanks said magistrates, judges and others were telling the commissioners a different story, Brown challenged him to "name names." He asked for evidence showing poor performance and said everyone makes mistakes — even Miller, who he said failed to sign two search warrants over the weekend.

Brown's job has been on the edge since shortly after he was hired in May because of what Miller called repeated problems that weren't resolved after training.

In late August, he texted commissioners asking for half the remaining salary for his two-year term in return for his resignation and promise not to sue.

At the Aug. 29 meeting, Brown asked to stay on the job until Dec. 1 so he could keep his health insurance through the end of the year. Then the motion to fire him failed on a 5-4 vote and attorney Hank Hill said his client did not intend to resign.

Wednesday's committee meeting ended without a recommendation, but in the voting session that followed, Security and Corrections Chairman David Sharpe made a motion to fire Brown.

Commissioner Chester Bankston seconded and the vote was unanimous.

Hill told the Times Free Press on Wednesday afternoon that to not discuss a motion to fire Brown in the committee meeting was unfair and didn't provide him due process.

"One would have thought they would have made the motion in front of Brown in committee, which they chose not to do," Hill said. He had tried to respond for his client to various allegations raised in the committee but Sharpe cut him off, saying, "This isn't a court case, Mr. Hill."

"I'm not sure 'cowardly' is the word but it's close," Hill said. "'Underhanded' kind of comes to mind, too. If you're going to do this to somebody, at least do it face to face."

Hill said he intends to send a written response to the commission and County Attorney Rheubin Taylor this week.

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at jwalton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416.