The district judge attended Monday's meeting of the Ottawa County Commission to clarify published accounts of his alleged plans to vary from design standards of the new county courthouse.
Judge Robert Haney said his actions are far from what was alleged in the Aug. 7 edition of the News-Record where it was reported that he was “taking liberties” and making “extensive alterations” in the “design” of the district courtrooms.
Haney took exception to the article and brought the concerns to the commission, indicating that he has not taken any steps to alter design - but has, rather, made efforts to secure bids for courtroom furnishings in anticipation of having to request funds from the court fund.
The Aug. 7 news report stemmed from a commission meeting held one day prior at which county officials agreed that all variances from interior established standards plans must be brought before the Governmental Building Authority which, if agreeable to the changes, will take the changes to the architect and ultimately to the contractor.
Commission chairman Russell Earls said at that time that the need for the continuity resolution was brought to light as word surfaced of Haney's plans to make “extensive alterations to his courtroom.”
Haney said his actions have not interfered with design.
According to Haney, he did ask that windows be moved from behind the judge's bench in the district courtroom, stating that he could not think of a more dangerous situation than to have a judge sitting with his back turned to a panel of windows. That change, according to Haney, was made early in the design phase as architects massaged the plans for the new courthouse. The judge also said that he had discussions with architects about removing the plans for placing carpet in the courtroom.
Additionally, Haney said he has solicited bids for furnishings and asked for particular finishes to match furnishings from the existing courtroom that will be used in the new courtroom.
The judge said his requests were of nothing “ornate” as has been alleged.
Haney said his requests for specific wood finishes were only for purposes of seeking bids.
“Nothing is set in stone,” Haney said.
Haney moved forward with seeking bids on furnishings - items such as benches, tables, chairs and other items specific to a courtroom - because the process of obtaining funds from the court fund may be slow and he needs a estimates of how much money he will be seeking from the fund.
Earls reiterated Monday that the purpose of the recent resolution was to establish procedure so that all requests for variance from standards in the future come before the Governmental Building Authority.
BK&L Architect Bill Knowles said Monday that color schemes, wood finish options and other interior standards have yet to be decided for the courthouse.
Samples will be brought before the Governmental Building Authority at a later date, according to Knowles. At that point, the authority members will make final decisions.
Knowles said the commissioners' resolution was nothing out of the ordinary and was a necessary step in establishing continuity.