Douglas County approved a $48.036 million general fund tentative budget on Tuesday, including $102,000 to pay for an additional public defender in the courts, part-time help in the public administrator’s office and licensing of court computer programs.
A new public defender will cost $195,834, but that cost will be offset by $105,671 elsewhere.
In addition to the public defender, commissioners approved $4,596 for a part-time caseworker for the public guardian’s office and $7,900 for courts computer licensing and warranties.
District Attorney Mark Jackson supported all three requests, particularly the public defender.
“It’s a defense attorney’s duty to investigate a client’s case, it’s their duty to meet with the client, and to attack the prosecution’s case. That’s their job.”
Jackson pointed out that the sheriff’s plan to move three deputies to patrol will affect both his office and the public defenders.
Douglas County contracts with private attorneys to provide legal services to indigent defendants facing time in jail or prison.
“All of this has also increased pressure on my office,” he said. “We do need safer streets. But increases in officers, means increases in arrests.”
He said that his office is handling 540 cases per attorney per year.
“I’m not asking for an additional prosecutor,” he said. “But there are issues associated with not having one.” Jackson said that in 2011, rather than a 5 percent pay cut, he cut a position out of his office.
“All the pay is restored, but we’re $114,000 short for another prosecutor,” he said.
Commissioner Nancy McDermid asked staff to explore adding a prosecutor to the Douglas County District’s Attorney’s Office, which requires $114,000.