County Adding Three Employees to Save Money

This story will be in print Tuesday and probably online shortly, but you can read the first draft of the story here.

Kitsap County has cut much of its budget this year through layoffs, but will make three key hires as a way to save money.

County commissioners approved Monday afternoon a proposal to hire two attorneys and one investigator to the public defender division by the end of the year, a move estimated to save about $200,000 a year in public defense costs.

David Peterson, county clerk, presented the proposal again Monday, after commissioners asked in August for the county’s budget staff to weigh in on the proposed cost savings.

County budget officials confirmed the savings Monday, using worst-case estimates related to increased fees and cost-of-living raises.

This year the county expects to spend about $1.93 million to defend those who can’t afford their own attorneys. Peterson said the county is on track to provide legal representation in 1,700 felony cases at a cost of $1,135 each.

The new attorneys will handle 270 of those cases in 2010 and all arraignments. Clarke Tibbits, who heads the county’s public defense division, said the investigator will probably handle work for the county’s attorneys and some of the privately contracted work.

Commissioners said little about the proposal Monday, but commissioner Josh Brown said the savings confirmed by budget officials demonstrated the merits of going ahead with the plan.

When asked why the county wouldn’t start with more attorneys, Peterson said the county wants to “prove the concept” before considering whether to expand it in the future.

“We want to make sure it’s going to work,” he said.

Tibbits said having two on staff initially will create a core leadership when more attorneys are hired.

The county established the public defense division in 2008, motivated by state grant money offered to enhance public defense efforts. Peterson said the county is likely to receive $450,000 in state grant money in 2010 from the office of public defense because of the addition of two attorneys.

This year the county has contracted retainers with seven firms to handle 89 cases a month, but the workload to date is averaging close to 140, according to data provided by Peterson.

For more information on this, I suggest you read Josh Farley’s story from June when Tibbits was hired.

This was about the only good budget news the commissioners heard on Monday afternoon. Commissioners were surprised in a later conversation about the finances at the Department of Community Development, which despite relatively good permit activity appears poised to cause the county to dip further into reserves.

One thought on “County Adding Three Employees to Save Money

  1. Now this is a good use of my tax money. Let’s get the guilty, oh sorry, the accused through a fair trial, found guilty and into jail more efficiently. And if, by chance, some are found innocent, then justice has prevailed.

    A win-win for all law-abiding citizens!

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