Circuit Court Clerk’s office reduces public hours as layoffs loom

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – The Shelby County Circuit Court Clerk’s office will close to the public for 10 hours a week starting Aug. 1 and layoff four employees Aug. 31, Clerk Mary Harris announced Thursday with “much regret.”

The office will be closed from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.  On Wednesdays, the office will be closed from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.

The announcement of reduced hours came three days after Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb issued a directive for reduced hours at all state clerk’s offices.

“This is not something I want to do,” Harris said through a press release, but “it will be necessary for our office to allow employees time to produce the greatest amount of work with the least impact on the public.”

By Aug. 31, the clerk’s office will be reduced from 16 to 10 employees. Four will face layoffs. Two are retiring – a deputy clerk with 33 years of experience and a supervisor with 29 years of experience.

A 2007 manpower study recommended 31 employees in Harris’ office. With 10 employees, Shelby County would have the least-staffed clerk’s office in the state.

In 2010, the clerk’s office collected more than $10 million in court costs, filed more than 45,000 court cases in nine different courts and issued 5,354 arrest warrants. The office also handles absentee voting and filing fees and restitution for crime victims.

Harris said her office still hasn’t recovered from a 2003 layoff.

“There will be frustrations from citizens and additional stress on already overworked employees,” Harris said. “If you are not satisfied with the amount of time it is taking for your case to be processed, you need to contact your legislators and express your concerns.”