County seeks additional prosecutors

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

SHEBOYGAN – With one dissenting vote, the County Board Tuesday endorsed District Attorney Joe DeCecco’s plea to the state for more prosecutors.

DeCecco, in his budget request to the state for the 2015-17 biennial budget, is seeking five more prosecutors in his office, which currently has 7.5 prosecutors. Prosecutor positions at the county level are paid for through the state budget.

Deputy District Attorney Christopher Stock made the case for the increase in staffing, citing several different studies as well as caseload.

“The numbers support our request. We’re asking for what we need,” Stock told the board.

He noted that the national standard for prosecutor staffing calls for one prosecutor for every 10,000 in population, while Sheboygan County is currently at one per 15,000. He also cited a Legislative Audit Bureau analysis which determined the county needs an additional 7.8 prosecutors.

“Right now we’ve got 7½ prosecutors doing the work of 12½ or 13 people. We’re just asking the state for what we need,” Stock concluded.

But Supervisor Fay Uraynar, who voted against the resolution supporting the staffing increase in the Law Committee, was unconvinced of the need.

“I kind of get the feeling that we’re being a little overzealous here,” Uraynar said. She contended that the number of cases the district attorney’s office handles has been declining over the past 10 years.

That was contested by Supervisor Thomas Epping, who chairs the Law Committee.

“It’s only common knowledge that crime has been going up in society. (The office) is not going to be able to deal with the heinous crimes that present themselves,” without the increased staffing, Epping stated.

He added that the DA’s office has been at the same staffing level for a number of years, despite repeated analysis showing a need for more staff. “The numbers support it and I support it,” Epping said of the request for increased staffing.

Supervisor Brian Hoffmann, a former member of the Law Committee, added his support.

“I know that the office is so overloaded that they often choose not to prosecute some cases,” Hoffmann stated.

“If we had more people to handle the work we would file more cases, yes,” Stock replied.

County Administrator Adam Payne noted that the request to the state is a desired number and not likely to be met in full.

“The chances of our getting five additional prosecutors is about the same as us getting more state shared revenue,” Payne admitted. “But it is a prudent approach to be consistent with what others say our need is.”

“It would be wonderful if we get five (more prosecutors),” Stock said. “We could put them to work from day one. Two would be good. Even one would be good.”

The board voted to adopt the resolution by a vote of 14-1, with Uraynar the only no vote.

The board received the proposed 2015 county budget, with a public hearing and formal review scheduled for the Oct. 28 board meeting.

The $125 million budget cuts spending by almost 2 percent, but will require a 1.22 percent increase in the property tax levy.

That will mean a four-cent increase in the property tax rate, from $5.60 to $5.64 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

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