By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

Just how the Del Norte County Courthouse should be run is an ongoing debate among local attorneys, county officials and state court officials.


Ownership is an issue and so are style, policy and money, according to County Administrative Officer Ben Angove and local attorney Leroy Davies.

And the woman in charge of court house operations, Linda Millspaugh, is in the middle of the bristling debate.

Her office hasnt been able to effectively do things her office was effectively able to do for the 10 years before she got here, Davies said.

The courthouse building itself is owned by the county, but the Superior Court of California has taken over operations in the building within the last few years.

Millspaughs position never existed in Del Norte County until just over two years ago. Her job is to transform the old county court with two levels of power into one unified, superior court able to hear all types of cases. That change involves reorganizing how paperwork is managed, how the books are done and how personnel are trained to support the new operations, according to Millspaugh.

This is a complex organization and change is not done overnight, she said.

As changes are made especially physical changes to the building conflicts are arising between the two entities that share power there.

Lately its about the need for better lighting in the court rooms.

At the last Board of Supervisors meeting she tried to get permission to paint the courtroom white. Thats redwood, you dont paint redwood white, Davies said.

Supervisor Martha McClure had a similar reaction as Davies and shut down the idea of painting the walls.

Millspaugh said the idea to use light paint was to save money on new lighting, which the county would have to pay for if decided on.

Basically, if it costs money, the countys not going to pay for it, Angove said in light of the countys budget woes.

But, the Court Executive Officer is still pushing for some solution.

It is a dimly lighted room that makes people strain to read documents or see evidence used in court hearings, she said.

Angove did commend Millspaughs efforts to make better use of space within the building by moving like departments closer to each other and making the public law library there more accessible to the public.

Davies, however, has other groans that he said are shared by most local attorneys.

Clients are spending more time in jail than they should be and attorneys arent getting paid in a timely manner, he said.

Shes changing policy and not telling anyone about it, he said.

Like policies that dictate how court room minutes get turned over to the bailiff who takes defendants back to jail for release after their hearing.

Those minutes go back from court to jail so the jail knows what to do with the guy, Davies said. He claims Millspaugh has changed it so the bailiff cant get a hold of the minutes right away. Davies said he and several other attorneys clients have spent an extra 24 to 48 hours locked up because of the change in procedure.

Attorneys George Mavris, Robert Cochran, Rick McClendon and Darren McElfresh were unavailable for comment.

About three weeks ago, Davies frustrations came to a head. After not getting his paycheck which was lying on Millspaughs desk and other problems, he posted a large wooden sign in front of his H Street office demanding Millspaugh leave Del Norte County.

She admitted to not being perfect, but said local attorneys have actually not been affected much by the changes.

Theyre getting paid the same they always were. We actually pay quicker than the way it was before I came, she said.

For now, though, the issue is light.

Millspaugh and several county officials are brainstorming for a solution they can agree on, along with new locks for the court house, outdoor ashtrays and other improvements.

Angove, Millspaugh, Earnest Perry of the community development department and county maintenance man Ed Fulton will meet today to begin fashioning a solution.