John Oswalt, who has been appointed interim Justice of the Peace for Precinct 1, gave an update Wednesday on the current status of the Harrison County office.
“It’s been great,” Oswalt reported to the Harrison County Commissioners’ Court. For the most part, Oswalt said he and his new staff have focused on a lot of housekeeping.
“There’s lots of files and stuff that’s been stacked and pushed to the side for the last couple of years that we’re getting on dockets,” he said.
Oswalt was appointed interim JP in September and replaced Chad Graff, who had taken over the job temporarily after Megan Pinson Grigsby was suspended from duty following an indictment and arrest in May on charges of theft and abuse of official capacity.
Graff had been in the role since June. Indictments accuse Grigsby, 34, of stealing funds in her capacity, starting around Oct. 31, 2017 and continuing until about July 31, 2018.
Oswalt is a member of the Greater Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce and the Marshall Elks Lodge. He’s been a volunteer firefighter for more than 30 years, a reserve deputy in the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office and boasts an associate’s degree in criminal justice.
In his new role, Oswalt said they’re hoping to clear the office’s backlog of files on Wednesdays.
“We’re trying to clean the docket up and clear the case file that’s stacked up over there,” he said.
In addition to working on the caseload, Oswalt said his office has also sent out lots of letters and notices to offenders, letting them know they have active warrants and owe fines.
“It’s amazing what happens when you send letters out, letting people know they have warrants out,” he said. “Money starts flowing in all of a sudden, so we’ve been collecting fines.”
Some of the debts are at least 10 years old, Oswalt said. The interim JP said his staff have been working diligently every day.
“The girls are enjoying their jobs,” Oswalt said. “They still have a lot to learn, but we really enjoy what we do over there.”
He thanked the court for the opportunity to be able to serve the county in that capacity.
The court approved Wednesday a request from Oswalt for a two-day training for the new staff to be held for six hours on two Saturdays before the end of the year. The training will be conducted by Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace Nancy George’s clerks, Meredith Slone and Libby Wyatt, at the rate of $400 per day, to be paid from the justice technology fund.
Court members expressed appreciation to Judge George and her staff for taking the time to train the new Precinct 1 employees.
“I know it’s crowded in (your) offices, but we do appreciate y’all taking the time and making it work to help get this thing on the right track,” Pct. 4 County Commissioner Jay Ebarb said
Oswalt said it’s been a great deal, having the support of all the justices of the peace offices.
“We thank Judge George and her staff, Libby and Meredith. They have done a great job. They’ve just bent over backwards for us,” Oswalt said.
“We’ve gotten a lot of support from all the JP courts as well, from (Pct. 3) Judge (Mike) Smith and (Pct. 2) Judge (Clarice) Watkins,” Oswalt said. “They’ve all been supportive. We really appreciate all the support we’ve gotten in Precinct 1.”
County Judge Chad Sims also expressed appreciation for everyone’s teamwork.
“It sure is a blessing,” Sims said. “It helps our county.”