Interim treasurer: Jurors not getting paid on time in the City of Norfolk

Posted at 6:06 PM, Mar 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-21 18:23:21-04

NORFOLK, Va. - If you’ve served jury duty in the last few months in Norfolk, there’s a good chance you haven’t been paid.

The phone has been ringing off the hook for the past three weeks at the city treasurer's office.

According to the Interim Treasurer Amy Ortega, jurors are not getting their money on time.

“They serve because it's their civic duty to serve jury duty and they need to be compensated for their service,” said Ortega.

Ortega said this has impacted hundreds of people over the last few months.

People get roughly $30 per day for jury duty in the City of Norfolk.

“The state code says that the treasurer is responsible for paying the jurors. We print checks twice a month,” said Ortega, “We've been inundated with calls last three weeks, people looking for their checks.”

She said the system in the treasurer’s office is not in sync with a new system at the circuit court office and said it’s creating problems.

George Schaefer, head of the circuit court office, said they weren’t aware of the problems and last they heard formatting issues were fixed.

He said, “We have manipulated and changed the digital text file of jurors four times since June 2016 to suit the treasurer based on their requirements.”

Schaefer said they are only required to give the treasurer’s office a list of names and it’s not their responsibility to make sure people get paid.

They say the liaison between their office and the treasurer’s office, Carl Cox, was fired which has also complicated the issue.

Schaefer says new system is called the Agile Jury, which is a program made by Xerox (now Conduent) and cost $85,000. It's the same system utilized by Federal Courts across the country and was implemented on January 1, 2017.

Ortega said the treasurer’s office was not part of the decision-making process for the purchase of the new system and she thinks was a mistake.

When News 3 asked Schaefer why the treasurer’s office was not part of the decision-making process he stated, “The only component of the system that involves the treasurer’s office is the list of jurors who have served to be paid by the treasurer. We worked with the treasurer’s office repeatedly, beginning in June 2016, to develop a formatted list that would suit their needs.”

He said last they heard the system was working perfect.

However, Ortega said the current system is not working and it is affecting jurors.

She said they were finally able to get caught up after working over the weekend with the Norfolk Department of Finance and tech specialists.  They plan to mail the checks out this week.

But Ortega said many of the checks were done manually and extremely time consuming.  She said this is just a band-aid for a bigger issue with the system.

“It’s a one-time fix. It's not something we can do every month to get these jurors paid and I just wanted to make sure these jurors were paid because they been waiting so long,” said Ortega.

“I'm hoping that we could all come to a file system that generates the correct format,” said Ortega, “I feel like we need to do whatever it takes to get them paid timely.  I don't think it's good for jurors to have to wait in this case six, seven weeks or more.  I don't think that's a good practice.”

“We have implemented a brand new system and apologize for any inconvenience this has caused. We will continue to work with the Treasurer to ensure the payment of jurors is as quick and efficient as possible,” said Schaefer.