An open letter to Beech Grove residents:
I have been very busy since the Nov. 8 election. One of my first acts as judge was to appoint Cindy Johnson as the city court clerk, under Ind. Code 33-35-3-1. Cindy has been an asset to the court over the past four years and I believe she will continue as such.
I spent December and the first week of January auditing the financial status of the city court. With the help of the former clerk-treasurer, the court clerk and the State Board of Accounts, I reviewed all the revenues, disbursements and budgets of the last three years — 2009, 2010 and 2011.
The rumors of the court’s porous financial health have been greatly exaggerated. Over the past three years, the court has brought in roughly $324,855.25 to the city, while the court’s budgetary line items totaled $335,766.00 over the same period, for a difference of roughly $10,910.75. I would also like to note that these numbers do not account for budgeted monies that were not spent or man hours saved by no longer having to send our police officers to Marion Superior Court for infraction trials and ordinance violation trials.
It is my belief that confusion over the court’s finances could possibly be from the way the budget reads. Currently the line items allotted to the court are placed under the heading “Department of Law;” so are the line items allotted for the city attorney. According to Ind. Code 3-4-9 et al., the city attorney and Department of Law are executive offices under the mayor.
Additionally, the State Board of Accounts conducts audits of city courts, independent of the executive branch. Thus, it is inappropriate to include expenses relating to the city attorney or the executive branch when examining the court’s expenses and revenues.
An upgrade of the court’s case management system is under way. The system we currently use is cumbersome, expensive and inflexible. In an effort to improve this program, we have been working with the technology arm of the Supreme Court, JTAC. With their help, we will be moving to a new system that is friendlier, easier to use, and best of all, free. Once in place, the Odyssey system will result in a savings of around $8,000 over the next four years. JTAC has already visited the court to test our systems. Odyssey should be up and running by late spring 2012.
Beginning April 3, the court’s hours will shift to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. Court will remain in session until all cases are heard each Tuesday. It only took a couple days on the bench to hear people say they would go ahead and admit the charges because they couldn’t miss any more work. I believe the court’s schedule should not be an impediment to an individual’s due process, and under my watch, it won’t be.
Finally, the court clerk and I have reviewed all of the court’s procedures with State Board of Accounts and the Indiana Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Commission. These agencies have guided us in ensuring the court’s administrative processes are in good shape.
Andrew J. Wells
Judge, Beech Grove City Court
(Editor’s note: Court is conducted at 802 Main St. on the second floor. Daily court business, filings, payment of judgments and other business matters can be conducted in the court office at Beech Grove Police Department, 340 E. Churchman Ave., from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday.)