Prosecutions may slow with budget cut - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Prosecutions may slow with budget cut

February 27, 2006

Albany -- Without assistance in paying his staff, the District Attorney says prosecutions may slow down.

D. A. Ken Hodges says his prosecutors will have to take on more cases if a specialized prosecution team for child crimes loses its funding. So he's asking commissioners to dip into county coffers to pay his special prosecutors.

But the county says it won't until it determines that Open Arms, Incorporated cannot fulfill its contract to pay the team.

If the District Attorney's Office loses its Child Felony Prosecution Team, crimes will still be prosecuted, but maybe not as quickly. "They may not have had this specialized training, and they also have all these other cases on their workload," said Hodges.

Hodges was back before county commissioners today. He told them since last week, he's gone to state lawmakers, the Attorney General, Congressman Sanford Bishop and the Lt. Governor, asking for money to pay the prosecution team. "They all indicated a willingness to try to look into some funding for me. It's still too soon, and they have not gotten back to me to say funding has been found," the D. A. said.

But Hodges still expects that he'll have to rely on the County to pay for the team until December, which will cost about $120,000.

County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard said, "Before the County looks at spending taxpayer's money, it needs to know all the facts to be sure they right things are done."

Sinyard says the County is still waiting on financial records from Open Arms, Incorporated. Open Arms was contracted to pay for the team until December. But last week, the agency said it couldn't afford to pay. Open Arms' contract with the state wasn't renewed last year when there was an investigation launched into the agency.

County Attorney Spencer Lee says Open Arms may be in breech of contract, but a lawsuit wouldn't do any good if the agency really doesn't have the money to continue paying the team. "You can't, as they say, get blood from a turnip," said Lee.

Open Arms Attorney W. T. Gamble the third says he has a meeting with the agency's Board of Directors tomorrow to see what, if any, of the financial records they want to give the County.

But he stresses that the money is just not there. For now, the D. A. says he can pay the three person team out of his budget for about 25 more days.

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