Williamson County commissioners have approved a shuffling of funds to help clear a backlog of cases and discovery requests in the district attorney’s office.
More than 200 cases were recently found in an empty office of the Williamson County District Attorney’s Office, and DA Shawn Dick called the backlog an emergency item at the Feb. 28 commissioners’ meeting.
"If we can pay our investigators, who are police officers that work in my office, they can help us with the backlog just by working overtime,” Dick told KVUE on Feb. 28.
The old cases date back to 2013 and include charges ranging from forgery to sexual assault on a child. "They had just been submitted to our office and they just sat there in a stack,” said Dick.
Tuesday, the commissioners approved to shuffle around money from the unallocated law enforcement fund, to put towards overtime for investigators.
"The investigators are willing to dive in and help us fix this problem," Dick told KVUE Tuesday.
Commissioners also approved moving funds to hire a temporary discovery clerk, which would work on a backlog of 1,500 discovery requests from defense attorneys.
He told the commissioners did not care if the employee is part time or full time, “Right now we just need a person.”
"Because we're already behind and we also go further behind each day in discovery requests, hopefully the temporary position for our discovery clerk will help alleviate us from going behind every day, and the investigators will be able to spend extra time outside of work hours really helping us accomplish some of the things that maybe isn't their assigned duties but they're willing to work hard to help us solve a problem," said Dick.
He said he's glad the commissioners are willing to approve these measures so his office can work on the problems.
"Obviously I'm pleased, the commissioners are working hard to get us some help," said Dick..
Dick also requested salary increases for 3 lawyer positions approved before Dick took office. But Tuesday the commissioners did not take action on the item.
"Certainly I'm disappointed, I want to have the best and brightest lawyers in the county and I'm working very hard to get the right people and make this office right," said Dick.
On average, he says the lawyers in his office have 19 years experience. That's something he says is important..
"Truthfully this office isn't a training office, this is an office you need to come in ready to work," said Dick..
He feels some of the problems are from a lack of experience.
"We have a backlog that's created in my opinion through inexperience," said Dick.
Both the commissioners and Dick said they are hopeful they can reach a compromise to solve this problem. It just won't be today.
These requests are for this budget year which ends in September. Dick is already working on requests to submit for the 2018 fiscal year.