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VOL. 131 | NO. 238 | Wednesday, November 30, 2016

County Explores Legal Options to Fix Courts' Computer 'Ordeal'

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Commissioners talked about possible legal action Wednesday, Nov. 30, against Tyler Technologies, the company supplying a new computer system for the local criminal justice system.

The prolonged discussion in committee sessions Wednesday is the latest development in a disastrous rollout of the new record keeping system for the local court system.

The problems for most of November have already prompted a lawsuit in Memphis Federal Court against Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham over the delays the computer problems have caused in keeping people in jail even after they have posted bond.

That lawsuit and the possibility of other litigation prompted Shelby County Attorney Kathryn Pascover to call the commissioners into a closed attorney-client session Wednesday after the public discussion became about legal options for county government.

After the closed session, General Sessions Court Clerk Ed Stanton told commissioners he is now under court order by General Sessions Criminal Court Judges to print their dockets each day as well as court documents including those needed by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department.

Stanton said he will need overtime pay for office employee and three temporary employees “indefinitely” to handle the additional printing duties.

“That means we’ll be working weekends, coming in early and later,” he said. “That should alleviate the problem.”

He didn’t offer a dollar figure and said the printing duties could go on for his office “indefinitely.”

Commissioners said they were open to considering that.

But commissioner Terry Roland said Tyler Technologies, which has the $9.7 million contract for the new criminal justice system computer system, should have to pay for the problems caused.

“It was based on their technology that got us in this shape,” Roland said. “I just want them to know if something happens to us in this ordeal, I’m coming after them.”

Heidi Shafer

Commissioner Heidi Shafer said the system replaced by the Odyssey program should have remained in place during the transition instead of shutting it down and then bringing up Odyssey.

She also questioned whether the problem was drawing the appropriate “sense of urgency.”

“People’s U.S. Constitutional rights are in jeopardy and have been, in my opinion, violated,” Shafer said. “That is no small factor. We have to get it fixed and we have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Shafer was gathering dollar estimates and could introduce a resolution to fund Stanton’s general request for overtime and the part-time employees as early as the Monday, Dec. 5, county commission meeting.

“This is no small matter,” she added. “Attorneys are frustrated because they don’t see anything changing and they don’t think anyone’s upset. … We’re going to get this fixed because this is one of the most important things we do.”

Ed Raper, the project director for county government, told commissioners the problems with the system are being fixed by Tyler and that there are more reports of problems as county employees become more familiar with using the new system.

“Each issue needs to be evaluated and analyzed and it takes the users getting familiar with the software,” he said. “The users are getting better at reporting problems.”

The General Sessions judges can bring up dockets and other documents on screen as well. That led to questions about whether the judges are changing the process for who prints those documents.

“This is accepting the change (to Odyssey) and rolling with it,” said commissioner David Reaves. “And it sounds like we have an issue with that with some elected officials.”

Stanton said he has to obey the court order and that some of the judges have told him that legally they have to have printed copies of the docket and other court records.

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