As the Harrison County Commissioners Court tackles the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, 71st Judicial District Judge Brad Morin is asking, again, to adequately compensate him and his staff for the work that they’re actually worth.
“I’m requesting that my supplement from the county goes from $15,000 to $18,000,” Morin asked during the court’s budget hearing workshop.
The supplement from the county has been $15,000 since 2002. Morin noted that County Court-at-Law Judge Joe Black and Harrison County District Attorney Reid McCain’s county supplement is currently already more than $18,000. A county supplement of $18,000 is the maximum the state will allow for a district court judge, according to the report of the Judicial Compensation Commission.
“I would tell you I’m in the bottom percent,” Morin informed. “I think there are only 13 counties in the entire state that don’t pay an $18,000 supplement.”
The district judge advised that his duties entail more than just sitting on the bench.
“I don’t know if you’re aware of the other boards that I sit on,” said Morin. “I’m not just the district judge.”
Morin said he’s responsible for appointing the county auditor and also shares the duty of overseeing the purchasing agent with County Judge Chad Sims.
“Judge Black and I are responsible for the probation department,” Morin added. “I also sit on the juvenile board with Judge Black and Judge Sims. I also handle duties with regard to the bail bond board that we’re on.”
In addition to an increase in his supplement, Morin said he’s requesting — for the third consecutive year — to reclassify his staff members, placing them at a step greater than they actually are, because of the roles they play.
Morin said Leslie Hawsey, who is listed as the court administrator, for instance, actually performs the duties of an office manager.
“Ms. Hawsey is my office manager. She handles everything — not just setting hearings,” the judge explained. “She actually prepares most of the budget, does all the ordering … handles those things and she comes in on weekends. She gets contacted through the night.”
When he has to assign warrants, Hawsey provides him those numbers, he said.
“It is time consuming and I am requesting that she be (elevated) to the position of manager,” Morin said, noting that Hawsey’s pay grade would need to be raised to compensate the role.
In addition to Hawsey, Morin said Ann Eads, who is currently listed as the court secretary, actually performs the work of a court coordinator.
“Ms. Eads has been with me since the beginning,” he said. “I’m requesting she actually be considered my court coordinator because that’s what she does. She handles almost the entire civil side of my docket, and plus family law.”
In other budget concerns, the judge also discussed the need for new jury chairs.
“Pretty much every jury trial I have, that’s one of the things that they point out to me is the chairs,” he said. “I tell them it’s a work in progress.”
Pct. 1 County Commissioner William Hatfield, who said he’s been approached by constituents about the condition of the chairs, said he’d like to see the chairs replaced, too.
“They’re horrible,” Hatfield said, describing the seats. “Help us help you and we’ll get something in there. Let’s get some new chairs.”
In other budget needs, Darron Forehand, head of the county’s juvenile probation services, also addressed the commissioners court, stating that the main thing he’s seeking the new fiscal year is a new van to replace the old 1999 model that is used to transport juveniles to the courthouse.
County Purchasing Agent Kendl Russell’s main budget request involved travel expenses to attend classes in Austin to pursue her purchasing agent certification.
“I’m asking to get certified through the state of Texas for purchasing agents. There are two classes, contract developer and contract manager training in Austin,” she said. “I plan on staying here for as long as y’all will have me, and I feel like this would be beneficial for me and the county, as a whole.”