Alpharetta to launch its own investigation into outgoing judge

Alpharetta will hire an outside party to launch an independent investigation into the possible code of conduct violations that led to the resignation of Municipal Court Judge Barry Zimmerman. (Courtesy City of Alpharetta)

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Alpharetta will hire an outside party to launch an independent investigation into the possible code of conduct violations that led to the resignation of Municipal Court Judge Barry Zimmerman. (Courtesy City of Alpharetta)

City officials say they don’t have access to details of possible ethics violations by Judge Barry Zimmerman

Alpharetta will hire an outside party to launch an independent investigation into the possible code of conduct violations that led to the resignation of Municipal Court Judge Barry Zimmerman.

Alpharetta officials say they do not have access to a complaint or details of ethics charges the Judicial Qualifications Commission considered bringing against Zimmerman. The commission resolved its case when he decided to step down from the bench earlier in June.

The judge’s retirement is effective July 1.

“The city is concerned and we have a responsibility to the public to take every reasonable effort to ensure the integrity of our judicial system and that is what we are doing,” Assistant City Administrator James Drinkard said.

Zimmerman, who served as judge in Alpharetta Municipal Court since 2014, submitted his letter of resignation to Mayor Jim Gilvin and City Council June 9, only writing that he was retiring for personal reasons, Drinkard said.

Four days later, the city learned of the JQC’s case against Zimmerman through an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story, Drinkard added. The AJC reported that the judge may have been improperly involved in several cases in his court.

Zimmerman did not return a Tuesday phone call for this story.

During a Monday meeting, City Council approved the hiring of a third party to find what out led the JQC to believe Zimmerman acted wrongly and unethically while presiding over cases. In addition to his part-time work as a judge, Zimmerman is a practicing attorney.

A law firm will likely be hired to lead the investigation, Drinkard told the AJC.

“If JQC procedures allowed them to release the details this probably wouldn’t be necessary,” Drinkard said of the investigation. “If we don’t know what was going on in the court … we can’t have the appropriate protocols in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

During Monday’s meeting, Councilman Douglas Derito said the investigation is a move to uphold public trust. He added that if the findings show the Municipal Court hasn’t been operating at the highest ethical standards, “That would be extremely disturbing to me as an elected official and as a resident of the city.”

Zimmerman, a Charlotte native, was reappointed as judge of Alpharetta Municipal Court in January and praised the smooth operation of the court at the time.

“I also appreciate you all for allowing me to continue to serve,” he told City Council after being sworn in. “It’s been a pleasure doing so. I enjoy it and I hope that I’m doing the job that you all expect and I really appreciate that you are allowing me to continue.”

Zimmerman has served as a part-time municipal and magistrate judge in north Fulton cities and the Fulton County Magistrate Court for 40 years, his website reads.