The County Attorney’s Office will seek to dismiss 235 more today in an effort to concentrate on felony and child-support cases.
As a cost-saving measure, the Pima County Attorney’s Office has sought to dismiss more than 500 misdemeanor cases over the past four days so it can continue to prosecute felony and child-support cases.
About 300 misdemeanor cases were dropped through yesterday, and another 235 cases were expected to be dismissed in Justice Court today, according to Chief Criminal Deputy County Attorney David White.
In all, perhaps 1,000 misdemeanor cases will have to be dismissed because of a tight budget, said County Attorney Stephen D. Neely.
Most cases involve such crimes as driving with a suspended license, criminal speeding (driving at 20 mph or more above the speed limit), trucking violations and dog leash law violations, according to Deputy County Attorney Linda Haynes, the misdemeanor division supervisor.
“Those are cases that do not involve victims,’ White emphasized.
The dismissals are the latest in a series of run-ins between the County Attorney’s Office and Board of Supervisors.
The office requested $12.85 million for this year’s budget. The board approved $11.8 million, or $300,000 more than last year’s budget.
“I don’t really know what they are doing,’ County Administrator Charles Huckelberry said of the dismissals yesterday.
“That’s the choice of the county attorney. It’s probably best for him to concentrate resources on felonies and violent crimes.’
Huckelberry said such decisions are up to Neely.
“Under scarce resources, you have to make decisions and if that’s his decision, that’s fine. He is the (elected) official who determines what crimes to prosecute in this county,’ Huckelberry said.
Haynes said she’s “very concerned’ about her department, which has been hardest hit by the staff reduction, losing four support workers.
Letters sent to law enforcement agencies advise officers to pursue traffic violations as a civil matter instead of criminal so prosecutors won’t be needed when the case goes to court.
Neely said more cutbacks may be in order.
“Our goal is to try to avoid layoffs while we can,’ he said, noting that positions are being moved across divisions within the office.
“Shifts in the board’s policy have limited our ability to hire `spot’ employees,’ he added, referring to temporary hires.
So far, two spot employees – an economic crime investigator and an extraditions specialist – have been laid off, said White.
No full-time attorneys have been laid off, but an opening for a deputy county attorney with the juvenile division will not be filled, he said.
No juvenile cases have been dismissed, according to Deputy County Attorney Clint Stinson, who lost two staff members in the juvenile division.
However, his department plans to handle fewer cases.
“We’ll have to be very picky,’ Stinson said.