By Joe Beck
Warren County Commonwealth's Attorney Brian Madden wants the Board of Supervisors to make room in the next budget for an additional assistant prosecutor to help cope with a rising caseload.
The proposed position accounts for much of the 13.3 percent increase that Madden is asking for in his departmental budget. The Commonwealth's Attorney office has three full time assistants, although one position is currently vacant as a result of the departure of Nicholas Manthos for the same position in Frederick County. In a memo accompanying his budget request, Madden said Manthos "literally did the work of two full time prosecutors."
Madden said in an interview that the number of criminal cases placed on the docket in Warren County Circuit Court as of early December 2012 stood at 673; the number of cases during the same period in 2004 was 441, a 50 percent increase in the eight years since the last time an assistant position was created.
Madden's proposed budget calls for a $55,000 salary for the additional prosecutor. The new hire would work with victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, help prosecute drug cases and other felonies in Circuit Court and also help with the General District Court caseload, according to the budget proposal.
The state Compensation Board typically pays the salaries of assistant prosecutors, but Madden said he is unaware of new positions anywhere in the state that the board has paid for in recent years.
Madden said he hoped a decision by the supervisors to pay for a new prosecutor with a combination of local funds and a grant will prod the Compensation Board to pay for the position in coming years.
He attributed the spike in the caseload to several factors.
"Law enforcement in this community is efficient in apprehending individuals who commit crimes," he said.
He also cited "very aggressive" prosecution of shoplifters by some retailers and a youthful drug trafficking population as possible reasons for the caseload increase. His budget request notes an increase in heroin and PCP trafficking and more than 200 drug distribution cases in Circuit Court.
His budget memo also noted a weak economy as a possible reason for an increase in financial crimes among those at the "lower end of the economic spectrum."
The result, Madden said, is a staff that is working more hours than ever.
"They're there at 9 in the morning and finish at 7 in the evening," he said.
Madden's budget memo also warned that the current two full time assistants need a raise "so we do not lose their services."
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org