By Michael Howell
County Attorney Bill Fulbright’s budget proposal for FY 2014 includes a major restructuring of the office that he claims will “net significant savings in general fund expenditures,” reducing them by more than $47,000. Fulbright told the commissioners in his proposal that there are five inter-dependent changes necessary to make his office more efficient, better serve the citizens and save the County money.
The five-part plan calls for eliminating contractual services for Child and Family Services (CFS) cases; adding child protection prosecution to the office; revising attorney compensation; strengthening the support staff by hiring four paralegals and one receptionist; and establishing Supervisory Attorney positions.
He states in his proposal that it will shift the workload and responsibilities for prosecuting CFS cases to the County Attorney’s Office, and not renew the outside contract for those services. He said that contract has averaged about $76,500 per year. In addition, he is proposing that the County not contract out for legal services to conduct labor negotiations with the four bargaining units. That contract has ranged from $8,000 to $10,000 per year.
Fulbright proposes to fill the vacant attorney position in the office with one who will prosecute CFS and criminal cases.
“While this position has been vacated by an experienced attorney at the high end of the pay scale, I am willing to fill the position with an inexperienced attorney at the lower end of the scale, and take on the training and mentoring necessary with a new prosecutor,” wrote Fulbright in his proposal. He said the cost of the position would be offset in part by federal funding through Title 4-E of the Social Security Act.
Fulbright notes that taking on CFS responsibilities also requires some trained staff. He calculates that four new paralegals and a receptionist are needed.
“It has become apparent that I cannot micro-manage all aspects of the legal work and office personnel within the RCAO,” wrote Fulbright. “To continue to do so is neither efficient nor productive for the RCAO’s work and personnel, nor Ravalli County.”
As a result, he says, he has created two supervisory positions. Each is created by a separate, extra job description, with a separate action form, so that supervisory duties and stipend are separate from the particular attorney’s other position and responsibilities. In the event that the particular attorney no longer serves in a supervisory capacity, then there is a clear demarcation of what responsibilities and stipend are attributed to the additional supervisory position.
There will be two supervisory positions, a Lead Civil Attorney who will directly supervise civil litigation, and a Staff Supervisor who will directly supervise all non-attorney staff. Both positions are directly accountable to the County Attorney.