Shana Byers Vinyard

Whitfield County Magistrate Judge Shana Vinyard, who has been on “voluntary paid leave” from the judge position since Oct. 3, 2018, on Wednesday submitted her resignation effective April 1, fellow Magistrate Judge Chris Griffin said. 

Griffin confirmed Vinyard, who has been drawing her yearly salary of $52,492, has been under investigation by the state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC).

"The Judicial Qualifications Commission investigator did inform us yesterday that she submitted her resignation to Gov. (Brian) Kemp and it was accepted,” Griffin said. 

A spokesman with the governor's office on Thursday was working on a request to provide the Daily Citizen-News with Vinyard's resignation letter.

Griffin said Chief Magistrate Judge Haynes Townsend was out of the country.

Once Vinyard’s resignation is official, Griffin said Townsend will select a replacement and make a recommendation to fill the rest of Vinyard’s term to Superior Court. A majority of the judges there must approve the recommendation. The person chosen and approved will fill the remainder of the term until the 2020 election.

Messages left for Vinyard on Thursday on her phone and on Facebook were not immediately returned.

Townsend has declined to comment on why Vinyard is on leave and said he couldn’t comment on any investigation, but said, “It is not through our office.”

“There is not too much more than that I can say at this point,” Townsend said in November of last year. "She is an elected official, and I don't have the authority to put her on administrative leave. I am the senior elected official and I gave her the option to stay in her office or staying at home. She decided to stay at home. Under Georgia law, you can't do anything to a judge's salary while they are still officially a judge."

Holders of judicial office in Georgia are overseen by the JQC, which has investigative powers and can present the results of investigations to the state Supreme Court, which can take disciplinary action.

While not speaking specifically about Vinyard, Townsend said all commission investigations are confidential and not subject to public records laws.

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