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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines

Lawrence County Chief Public Defender Reports No Contract Labor for Public Defenders Since May

LAWRENCE COUNTY - JANUARY 2, 2022 - Lawrence County Chief Public Defender Tim Sledd reported to both the Lawrence County Commissioners and Council in December that there has been no contractual labor for public defenders.

This being savings in costs to the county and taxpayers.

Sledd was hired in May 2022, to take over the troubled Lawrence County Public Defender's office due to staffing issues and heavy case load of the agency.

Lawrence County is a member of the Indiana Public Defender Commission which reimburses the county 40 percent of the cost of the office. The reimbursement is given as long as the agency is in compliance with the commission standards.

Lawrence County started participating in the Public Defender Commission in 2010. This year, 2022; Lawrence County received $211,824.96 and a total of $ 3.3 Million since 2010.

The public defender's office is also overseen by a three-member board which consists of Brent Steele, Bill Spreen and Jerry Hill.

Tim Sledd talks with the Lawrence County Council at their December meeting

Sledd says after restructuring his office, they have been able to handle all the cases assigned to his office. This includes a seven-defendant case that was just handed over to his office recently.

In addition, CHNS cases that sometimes requires multiple attorneys have been managed by the public defender's office without requiring outside contractual attorneys.

Most CHNS cases require at least two - three attorneys can have many more attorneys assigned to these cases.

Over the last two years, former Chief Public Defender Bruce Andis was appearing before the council with additional appropriation of funds for attorneys with a rate of $100 an hour.

With the Lawrence County Public Defender's office fully staffed and restructuring of the agency the costs related to the public defender's office now have been able to get the contractual labor eliminated at this time.

In addition, should any contractual attorneys be needed Sledd has required all invoices be submitted within a 30-day time period or they do not get paid. This keeps the county council from being surprised by huge bills unexpectedly.

The jail counts at the Lawrence County Jail have been under 100 inmates a day over the last couple of months. The cooperation among the sheriff, prosecutor, public defenders and judges have helped reduced the population at the jail.

A justice study calls for the construction of a new jail facility with a price tag of $58 Million over 19 years, or a renovation of the current facility at $ 8 Million to $ 9 Million. There has been no decision on the construction of a new jail.

The budget for the public defender's office in 2023 is just under $1 million.

Lawrence County Council have worked to include pay raises for court staff, and public defender's office, and prosecutor's office to help with parity among the three.

During the Lawrence Council meeting Sledd reports that he no longer needs a Social Worker and requested that position be moved to an Administrative Assistant which can be more flexible to the agency's needs.

A transfer of $11,609 was granted by the Lawrence County Council.

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