By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Forsyth County Juvenile Court layoffs total four
Staff given no explanation, notice
justice

Three additional people were relieved of their duties in the Forsyth County Juvenile Court at the same time as an administrative order was issued by the Forsyth County Superior Court that dissolved the positions of court administrator and clerk.

“We weren’t given any explanation whatsoever,” said Rebecca Rusk, who has been serving as both court administrator and clerk until she and three other staff members were handed a letter explaining their positions no longer existed.

The Forsyth County News reported on Thursday the administrative order, which was filed and went into effect May 16 after being signed by Superior Court Chief Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley and the two other Superior Court Judges David L. Dickinson and Philip C. Smith, initiated a takeover of Juvenile Court by Superior Court, absorbing the duties of Rusk’s job into two existing positions — Greg Allen is the clerk of Superior and State Courts, and Robin Rooks is administrator for the Bell-Forsyth Judicial Circuit.

Rusk said her official title, as appointed by a Superior Court order in 2005 when Juvenile Court moved to its current facility on Lanier 400 Parkway, was Juvenile Court manager.

May 16’s order did not mention the three other positions that were terminated.

They were, Rusk said, two juvenile service specialists —one of whom was Rusk’s daughter — and an administrative specialist senior.

“I was never her supervisor,” Rusk said of her daughter.

Rusk said her own duties included maintaining paperwork, writing grants and determining, scheduling and planning programming.

“The Juvenile Court mandate has always been of treatment, rehabilitation and reunification. Never punitive,” she said.

In addition to being given neither notice nor explanation for the restructuring of the court and, therefore, cuts to the four employees, Rusk said the letter she was handed by Forsyth County Human Resources Director Pat Carson informing them of the change explicitly said the cause was “not due to any performance issues.”

Rusk said the letter informed her she can apply for unemployment and will receive the days off she has not claimed and that she is eligible to get another county government job.

Carson said Friday the four letters are “essentially the same” except that Rusk is eligible for retirement benefits because of her “number of years of service.”

Rusk began working for the courts in 1989 when Forsyth was part of the Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit. In 1997 when Bell-Forsyth split to become its own circuit, Rusk worked for Bagley when he was a State Court judge.

In that time, she applied for a grant from then Superior Court Chief Judge Stan Gault to open a Juvenile Court in Forsyth County.

“For all this to come about is quite upsetting,” she said. “This has been a lifetime of work.”

Juvenile Court provides programming for teens and children going through the system to rehabilitate them with a goal to reunify them with their family and to live a lawful adult life. Rusk said she is scared those programs will not be prioritized in Superior Court.

Rusk said she does not know who is right and who is wrong, but there is a difference in opinion between the court’s judges on how a state statute should be interpreted.

Statute 15-11-54(a) of the Georgia Code allows a juvenile court to be “attached to” a superior court, which oversees administrative oversight.

Bagley deferred on Thursday to the statute and the order as to why the consolidation is being made, saying because of that law, “we didn’t have to give reasons.”

A woman who answered Bagley’s office phone said on Friday he is unavailable until Monday.

Chief Juvenile Court Judge J. Russell Jackson did not return emails asking for comment.

“The Juvenile Court has done such good work for families and children,” Rusk said. “I’m so afraid that those things are going to be destroyed in the process.”

There has been no indication programs or funding will be discontinued, though there has been little information given about the change except the order.

Allen and Rooks were at Juvenile Court throughout the week to observe operations to begin the process of assuming responsibilities for the court.