Forsyth County Solicitor General Donna Gopaul kept returning to the word “efficiency” as she discussed the changes in the office and its staffing since she started in March.
Gopaul was appointed the office by Gov. Nathan Deal to succeed Leslie Abernathy-Maddox, who now serves as a Forsyth County State Court judge.
Gopaul has gotten to work quickly on her plans for the office, enacting new programs and creating a staff that will meet her goals.
Those plans have led to some turnover — with new faces in the courtroom and old ones returning.
Three prosecutors have left and two have taken their places, with a third position still be filled.
“Some of these people that aren’t here any longer, they weren’t a good fit for what I envisioned for the office, for my team,” she said. “Mainly, I’m trying to make the office more efficient because that’s what I told the governor I would do.”
The former senior assistant solicitor, chief deputy solicitor general and one assistant solicitor have departed.
The chief deputy solicitor position, formerly held by 10-year employee Amy Radley, has been rehired at the same salary of nearly $89,000.
Radley served as interim solicitor between Abernathy-Maddox leaving and Gopaul’s appointment. She was fired on April 9 after being given the option to resign.
The chief position was refilled on April 22 by Inez Grant, who previously held that role, but left for a few years to work in private practice.
Gopaul said she sought Grant’s return based on her years of experience.
“She’s really able to help with the training and the guidance of how cases should be handled, how to close them out quicker,” Gopaul said. “Really, her expertise does make us more efficient, which is the major reason I brought her on staff.”
A former senior assistant solicitor, Erin O’Mara, resigned on April 2. That position remains vacant.
Andrew Richman, an assistant solicitor, was fired June 7, about a month after Emory Stroberg was hired to fill another assistant spot on May 6.
Richman was earning a salary of nearly $59,000, while Stroberg is making $53,000.
Gopaul said she’s also trying to reduce “inflated salaries” to keep her budget within the available funding.
The office has five assistant solicitors, of which one position is currently vacant.
Gopaul also shifted some positions to create a full prosecuting team in Magistrate Court, including an assistant solicitor, investigator and administrative assistant.
The setup will allow the office to make contact with domestic violence victims within 24 hours of a defendant’s arrest, she said.
“Before we weren’t making contact with them for several weeks,” she said. “Now, because we have a team in Magistrate Court, we’re able to make contact with the victim and find out what their wishes are immediately. I think it’s really going to change the way we process domestic violence cases.”
Along with that model, the former domestic violence victim therapist, Leslie Dinkins, was let go May 25, as those job duties were absorbed in other areas.
Gopaul also expressed excitement about changes to DUI traffic arraignments to determine who may be eligible for an alternative program.
Those charged with driving under the influence attend arraignments en masse, and the DUI Court staff presents the benefits of entering the accountability court program, which seeks to stop repeat offenses.
The office also hopes to enact a requirement aimed at lowering the high number of teenagers with accident tickets, Gopaul said.
“We’re trying to require that these teenagers take a defensive driving course and come in with proof that they’re doing something to prove their driving … before they come to their arraignment date, “ she said, “just to show they’re trying to improve their driving skills.”
The office hasn’t had a problem with a large case backlog, Gopaul said, but she plans to continue proper training for her prosecutors to keep that efficiency going.