(WBIR - Knoxville) In just a couple of weeks, embattled Knox County criminal court clerk Joy McCroskey's term in office will expire. The man elected to replace her is already in the process of making changes.
Mike Hammond takes over as the new court clerk on September 2. Hammond made all of the 80 employees at the clerk's office reapply for their jobs.
"We did the interviews last week and it was great to get all of the employees' feedback and opinions on what problems exist at the office and hear their ideas on how to fix things," said Hammond. "Because they're the ones on the front lines. They've given me a lot of great suggestions on things they would like to see done to improve the office."
The clerk's office has been the focus of several problems in the last year. A WBIR 10News investigation revealed a myriad of mistakes and incorrect paperwork that led to the wrongful arrests of dozens of people.
10News Investigates: Oct. 2013 - Clerk errors lead to wrongful arrests
McCroskey came under intense scrutiny and announced in February that she would not seek reelection. Hammond won the primary race in May and was uncontested in the August general election.
Shortly after Hammond was elected in the May primary, McCroskey gave more than $180,000 in raises to employees at the clerk's office. Hammond says those raises will end when he takes office.
"I have told them [the employees] that we'll have to rescind the raises. Right now, as of September 2, your salary is going to go back to where it was before the raise. They understand that. Everyone would like more money, but I showed them the budget and we simply do not have the money now to absorb $187,000 in raises with all of the other things that need to happen. There may be a time when we can give raises in the future, but not at this moment."
Hammond said the money will be required to overhaul and revamp the operation of the clerk's office.
"The problems were much deeper than I thought as I started to delve into it, but it's nothing that can't be fixed," said Hammond. "One of the biggest issues is Technology. In all three offices that was the number one issue is the technology is outdated or they don't have technology or they're still doing things the way they did 20 or 30 years ago."
Hammond says after speaking with judges and other members of the court, there will now be a greater emphasis on training.
"When you're sitting in a court room beside a judge, it's really important that you know what you're doing. We have some people that are new and I don't think they've been properly trained. Training is one of the things we're going to focus on," said Hammond.
The office will implement a new standardized filing system. Hammond also plans to hire a new full-time file clerk devoted to overseeing the organization of documents.
"The amount of requests for files that come in on an hourly basis are just amazing. Attorneys, members of the public, and the media are all constantly in need of documents. The file clerk will oversee all of the files in all three divisions and make sure we can get those files quickly."
Overall, Hammond thinks the staff is glad to have a fresh start.
"It's exciting to me to see their excitement because they know change has to happen. You know, they've kind of been beaten up in the media and the public. And it's not really their fault in a lot of occasions. They're excited about improving things and they want that office viewed in a positive way," said Hammond.
As for the 80 employees who reapplied for their jobs, Hammond says he wants to make those decisions quickly. He plans to let everyone know if they will be retained or cut loose by this Wednesday.