After consideration of adding a second probation services provider for McDuffie County Probate Court, county commissioners voted last week to stay with the current provider.
Two former employees of CSRA Probation Services - the company that holds the contract with McDuffie County Probate Court - recently started their own business and approached Judge Gene Wells about using their company as well.
"The one that I had originally ...has recently got her license back," Judge Wells said of Teresa McClellan, President of the new Client Management Systems. "...She does a real good business for us. She collected the fines, and if they moved or couldn't find them, they'd go out and hunt them."
Judge Wells presented the idea to commissioners who scheduled a vote on the issue. However, after legal council at last week's meeting, they decided that the contract with CSRA Probation Services was exclusive.
"Obviously, I'm pleased that the commissioners agreed that it was an exclusive contract," said Mike Popplewell, president of CSRA Probation Services. "But I entered into the contract under the impression that it was an exclusive contract."
In a letter presented to commissioners, Ms. McClellan claimed that on average, CSRA Probation Services was only collecting on 46 cases of 281 total under its supervision. But Mr. Popplewell said those numbers were inaccurate for several reasons.
"A good example is that there were approximately 170 cases in warrant status," Mr. Popplewell said. "Collectability is not an issue with a case in warrant status. ...Many of the cases may have missed a payment during the course of a month, which is not unusual, but yet they were on track to pay out before their term of probation was up. When you take those cases out of the equation, there are very few cases that have not been collected on."
Ms. McClellan said she was less concerned about losing out on the contract as she was about not being able to work with Judge Wells.
"The thing that most bothers me is that I won't be able to work with Judge Wells any more because he's retiring in December," she said. "That's what is heartbreaking for me, because I've worked with him for 14 years, and we have a good working relationship."
McDuffie County Probate Court's contract with CSRA Probation Services is up for renewal in March, and Ms. McClellan said she plans on asking the commission to make the change to her company at that time.
Judge Wells said of Valerie Burley - his appointee who will take over as judge when he retires - "We think alike, and she'll get (Ms. McClellan) back." Mr. Popplewell said if the issue arises again, he will simply stand on his company's record.