One elected official in Evans County is facing scrutiny after documentation showed he had someone else working on his behalf, in his absence, almost every month of 2014 and 2015, according to loosely recorded documentation.
The Evans County’s Solicitor General, an elected position, is a part-time prosecuting attorney position for the Evans County State Court. The Solicitor General in State Court deals with misdemeanor cases like DUI, simple assault, and traffic offenses. Evans County State Court convenes a mere 11 times per year – holding court on the third Thursday of every month, except December. The full duties of the solicitor are available under OCGA 15-18-66.
William “Bill” Callaway has been the Evans County Solicitor for some time, and was recently re-elected in the May 2016 primary without any opposition. Though he has a private practice with attorneys Ben Brinson and Joe Neville, the practice is permitted through OCGA 15-18-63B so long as the cases of those he represents do not pose a conflict of interest with those he prosecutes.
In the event that the solicitor cannot attend court, Georgia code (OCGA 15-18-70) permits the appointment of a deputy solicitor in the event of the absence of the elected person:
If the solicitor-general shall be temporarily absent from the county such that he or she is not available to perform the duties of said office, the solicitor-general may authorize, in writing, the chief assistant solicitor-general to exercise any of the powers, duties, and responsibilities of the solicitor-general during such absence.
But authorizations for specific court dates were not available as of August 16. The problem lies in the lack of oversight of the entire office, the State Court Judge, Ronald Hallman, is not responsible for maintaining records of attendance of the Solicitor General nor is Evans County Clerk of Court Kathy Hendrix. Essentially, the office of the Solicitor General is a self-reporting agency.
…A self-reporting agency that has minimal documentation of attendance other than documents signed by defendants on arraignment dates.
Worse, it appears that Callaway has been sending private practice attorney’s Ben Brinson and Joe Nevil in his place for a considerable period of time. Court documents from the Evans County State Court portal show the following persons signing traffic citations, nolle prosequi paperwork, and case dispositions in 2014 & 2015:
January 2014 – Ben Brinson
February 2014 – Joe Neville
March 2014 – Joe Neville
April 2014 – Ben Brinson
May 2014 – Joe Neville
June 2014 – Ben Brinson
July 2014 – no supporting documents
August 2014 – Joe Neville
September 2014 – Joe Neville
October 2014 – Ben Brinson
November 2014 – Ben Brinson
January 2015 – Ben Brinson
February 2015 – no supporting documents
March 2015 – Ben Brinson
April 2015 – Joe Neville
May 2015 – Joe Neville
June 2015 – Ben Brinson
July 2015 – Ben Brinson
August 2015 – Joe Neville
September 2015 – Joe Neville
October 2015 – Joe Neville
November 2015 – Joe Neville
During the same time period, Callaway collected $33,518.16 in 2014 and $34,523.70 in 2015 for a total of $68,041.86 over two years.
When asked about the budget for the Solicitor’s office, Callaway said there wasn’t one, noting his salary was the sole expense for the office he runs out the space where he operates his private practice. When asked if he uses his salary to compensate those who attend court on his behalf, Callaway said, “I usually just say ‘Thank you.'”
The code section pertaining to the compensation, OCGA 15-18-70(4), says:
An acting solicitor-general, upon assuming the office, shall be compensated at the same rate as is authorized by general or local law for the solicitor-general. The acting solicitor-general shall retain such other benefits and emoluments as an assistant solicitor-general, including, but not limited to, membership in any retirement system which such assistant was a member of at the time of the appointment as acting solicitor-general.