District Attorney Mulholland discusses budget issues with county commissioners

Published 2:19 pm Thursday, May 2, 2024

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Members of the Decatur County commissioners met for their last meeting of April last Tuesday evening, April 23. The meeting opened with the invocation, Pledge of Allegiance, and approval of the agenda.

There was no public participation or old business to address. The only major item of new business on the evening’s agenda was a presentation by District Attorney Joe Mulholland, regarding the funding of the DA’s office. Specifically, he was addressing disparities in the funding between the public defender’s office and the district attorney.

Mulholland began with a brief recap of how the funding for both the DA and public defender’s offices had been determined, with both offices receiving both state and county funding.

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“They said, ‘What we’re gonna do is make it equal, put them on both levels and make it parity, so we’re gonna give the public defenders the same exact thing,’” he said, referring to the state’s funding. “Basically the state started funding approximately $666,974. That was funded by the state, and those positions are exactly the same, and they mirror mine. So we have three judges now, we have three assistant DAs, I have a chief assistant. There’s three public defenders and there’s a chief public defender also.”

Getting to the issue, Mulholland said, “I am not in any way, shape, or form saying that something was done underhanded or whatnot, but what happened was, is the Public Defender’s Office started being funded by the state, but they never changed their budget from what the counties were paying.”

He elaborated that this disparity in funding has begun to affect the district attorney’s office’s ability to draw new hires.

“How it affects my office and how it affects my budget is,” Mulholland continued, “you have an assistant DA or you have a public defender, and you have a young man or woman that comes out of law school and are looking to go into these positions. And if the public defender’s office can pay $30,000, $40,000 more than I can, well then obviously they’re gonna go there.”

Mulholland went on to emphasize the differences between the work and requirements of the district attorney’s office versus the public defender’s office. However, he did not simply request more money from the counties to fund the DA’s office.

“Again, I don’t want to say ‘Just give me the same amount of money that they have,’… I don’t think that’s right. But I do think it’s fair that if you took both budgets, both operating budgets, it’s not going to cost the taxpayers of this county any more money, and just split it down the middle.”

After some discussion with the commissioners, no decision was made at the meeting. The commissioners will continue to discuss the issue and address it in a later meeting.

After Mulholland’s presentation, the commissioners approved this meeting’s errors and releases, and following the commissioner’s closing remarks, the meeting was adjourned.