District attorney’s office faces cuts
JANESVILLE Rock County Court cases could get dismissed or move slowly through the justice system if a state cost-cutting measure forces prosecutors to take additional unpaid furlough days.
“There will be cases we just will not prosecute,” Rock County District Attorney David O’Leary said. “I take the most serious cases and prosecute those, and the rest just get delayed or dismissed based on how serious the case is.”
The state is asking assistant district attorneys to take six additional furlough days by June 30. Assistant district attorneys had agreed in their two-year contract to take 10 unpaid furlough days – or five each year.
The additional six unpaid furlough days mean assistant prosecutors would take 16 furlough days over two years.
O’Leary said he might have to close his office every Friday because of the reduction. He said prosecutors wouldn’t always be available, delaying cases and closure for victims.
He said the additional cuts are on top of reductions the office has made in recent years. He said a Legislative Audit Bureau study stated Rock County was already short five assistant district attorneys based on workload.
“Rock County has historically been understaffed,” O’Leary said. “To take that crushing workload and lay off 20 percent of staff is beyond belief.”
In Walworth County, the three assistant prosecutors could become part-time workers. Walworth County District Attorney Phillip Koss said he was unsure how a reduced staff would cope with the office’s workload.
The Association of State Prosecutors, the bargaining unit for assistant district attorneys, and the state were unable to reach an accord earlier this month on the disputed six additional days of furlough.
Last week (April 21), a letter from state Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch warned that the assistant district attorneys’ jobs would be reduced from full time to 80 percent May 8, meaning they would become part-time employees, losing pay and benefits.
Huebsch explained that other state employees had agreed while former Gov. Jim Doyle was in office to take 16 days of furlough over two years, and assistant district attorneys are expected to do the same.
“Effective May 8, your FTE (full time equivalency) of 100 percent will be reduced to 80 percent,” Huebsch wrote. “You should understand that this reduction is permanent, however, will not result in you actually separating from state service.”
In Rock County, the district attorney’s office includes the district attorney, deputy district attorney and 12 assistant district attorneys.
In Walworth County, the office includes the district attorney, one deputy district attorney and three assistant district attorneys.
Koss had asked the state in the pending two-year budget for another prosecutorial position, a request that is pending. In a letter justifying his request, Koss wrote that since 1989, the county has grown from fewer than 75,000 to more than 100,000 people.
“In 1992, the Legislature added a fourth judicial branch to Walworth County. The fiscal note of that additional judicial position included funding for an additional Walworth County assistant district attorney. That position was never filled,” Koss wrote.
The Rock County District Attorney’s Office handled 7,448 cases in 2010, including 1,140 felonies, 1,923 misdemeanors, 627 traffic crimes, 1,240 nontraffic ordinance violations, 31 juvenile civil and ordinance violation cases, 626 juvenile delinquencies and 1,861 traffic forfeitures.
In Walworth County, Koss said his office had 3,812 cases, resulting in the filing of 511 felony cases, 619 misdemeanor cases, 1,042 traffic crimes, 508 traffic citations, 101 juvenile delinquencies, 32 civil cases and 233 ordinance cases.