LANE COUNTY, Ore. (KMTR) -- The Lane County District Attorney's Office has a new proposal that could save the jobs of several county prosecutors while helping litigate cases in Eugene and Springfield.
The DA's Office is considering submitting a bid to take over prosecution of misdemeanor cases in local municipal courts.
In total, the DA's Office is facing 2 million dollars in budget cuts with virtually all cuts coming out of the criminal prosecution portion of the office. Additionally, the county Medical Examiner's Office will be eliminated.
According to Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner, his office is looking at laying off eight of 24 criminal prosecutors by June 30, 2012, which is the end of the 2012 fiscal year.
Lane County's criminal prosecutors work felony cases in Lane County Circuit Court.
For several years, both Eugene and Springfield have used private attorneys to prosecute misdemeanor offenders in their respective municipal courts. The Lane County DA's Office is now considering picking up some of Eugene's misdemeanor municipal prosecuting work and all of Springfield's.
Gardner says if the contracts fell in his office's favor, he'd be able to keep at least three criminal prosecutors / deputy DAs on staff, along with one supervising attorney.
Along with saving staff from losing their jobs, Gardner says the move could save money in the long run by giving the office a new source of revenue by retaining skilled and experienced employees.
“It's very expensive to train people; it takes a long time, so it's expensive not just in terms of that period where they're not productive, but it's also expensive because you have experienced people who would otherwise be doing work who are spending their time doing the training,” says Gardner.
If several prosecutors were able to keep their jobs with municipal court work, those prosecutors would also be available to help prosecute felony cases in Lane County Circuit Court.
“Basically, it buys us a little time where we will get a little bit of work from them here in exchange for doing most of their work for the city prosecutor's office,” says Gardner.
Even if the municipal prosecution contracts work out, Gardner says the deal isn't all roses. The deputy DAs who would keep their jobs would still take a significant pay cut, plus they would lose access to health and retirement benefits.
The City of Springfield will put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) in the next week for its entire municipal court prosecutor contract, which is worth about $250,000. Eugene contracts for individual prosecutor annually as well. Both cities' contracts should be filled by the end of June 2012.
(for more information, read NewsSource 16's original story about the Medical Examiner Office closure at the following link: http://www.kmtr.com/news/local/story/Medical-examiners-and-morgue-eliminated-from-Lane/HDV5BvoqLUKj8EVlqj8ngQ.cspx.)