A state agency says Houston County has 60 days to fix procedural problems in this summer's firing of their chief public defender.
That's according to an Oct. 13 letter from Bryan Tyson, the executive director of the Georgia Public Defender Council.
The county board of commissioners fired Nick White on Aug. 2, without a hearing and without a notice stating the cause. That violates the county's agreement with the state, according to the state council.
The Georgia Public Defender Council oversees public defender offices across the state. More than a decade ago, Houston County decided to opt-out of the statewide system and operate its own office.
Tyson's letter says it's important to protect the state's chief public defenders from political influence by ensuring that they can't be fired without just cause.
He asks that, at the minimum, the county protect White's successor from "political, personal, or capricious removal."
He also writes that the council's concerns involve procedure, not whether there was good cause to fire White.
If the state council is not satisfied with Houston's response, they could choose to take management of the county's public defender system away from local officials.
By email, White said he was "elated" by the council's letter.
He wrote, "It's uncontested. There was no cause for my dismissal, so if the county wants to clear that hurdle, my reinstatement is a must."