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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines

In 4-2 Vote Lawrence County Council Questions Contract Lawyer Payments

LAWRENCE COUNTY - MAY 24, 2022 - Chief Public Defender Bruce Andis

request for additional $50,000 for contract lawyers was approved. in a 4-2 vote.

Lawrence County Chief Public Defender Bruce Andis

Lawrence County Council members Rick Butterfield and Jeff Lynton being the two council members to vote against the additional appropriation.

This comes after, council members questioned Andis on why the public defender's office is still needing additional funds for his office.

Lawrence County Council member Rick Butterfield was the first to question why the county continues to payout for additional contract lawyers.

Andis replied by stating the office was down three attorneys.

The council asked whether the department was back up to full staffing levels. " We will be down one attorney, following the hiring of two public defenders," Andis replied.

The council again asked why the agency was having a hard time keeping employees.

Andis replied that its due to the low pay the county pays. " When you pay $65,000 and other counties pay $85,000, this has been a factor.

"During the budget process we have never been able to seem to be able to get these issues addressed," said Lawrence County president Scott Smith. Smith then questioned whether the public defender board was to be active in recommending salaries for the attorneys.

During the 2022, budget process the Lawrence County Council did increase the salaries at the recommendation of the Andis. During that time Lawrence County Jeff Lytton wanted an accurate budget for the Public Defender's Office.

By Indiana Public Defenders Commission rules the committee is supposed to be active in the budget process. The public defender board consists of Brent Steele, Bill Spreen and newly appointed member Jerry Hill.

The proposed budget for the public defender's office as at $1 Million dollars however the council reduced the budget to just over $900,000. The county is reimbursed for part of the public defenders' salaries if the county is in compliance with the standards set by the state.

However, over the last three years the county has struggled to remain in compliance with the high turnover of public defenders for the last three years.

In June 2020, the Lawrence County Public Defender's office declined appointments due to huge caseloads.

Tim Sledd will take over as the Chief Public defender in June. Andis will step down to become deputy public defender. Bruce Andis will be retiring in September this year.

Lawrence County Council members are hoping for a better budget process for the public defender's office in the 2023 budget process.

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