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Letters to the Editor

June 27, 2005

District Attorney responds to staffing study

To the editor:

I am responding to the article, "Study shows DA Overstaffed With Investigators," which was recently published in your paper. Please note that my objections to the study were previously forwarded to the Clayton County Board of Commissioners. For purposes of this letter I will reiterate my response. I believe the study was flawed for the following reasons:

In the first instance, the persons responsible for conducting the study lacked requisite expertise because this was their first study of a district attorney's office. They did not have a recognized or reliable methodology previously used in any other study of a district attorney's office. The ambiguity, contradictions and inconclusiveness of the findings throughout the study illustrate this fact.

The methodology used was that of the American Prosecutor's Research Institute, (APRI). In layman's terms, this methodology takes into account the different types of criminal felony cases, looks at the complexity of the cases and the time involved in the prosecution of each type of case. A dollar amount is then applied to each type of case and a determination is made as to how much staff is required to prosecute the cases. On one hand, the study indicates that the methodology establishes a norm or average amount of time that prosecutors spend on cases. Yet, later it states that the APRI methodology implies that there is a standard way of practicing the art of prosecution management when in fact there does not appear to be any such standard method of this type.

In addition, this methodology uses as part of its analysis, the number of cases disposed of in any given year with staff working at their optimum capacity level. This is flawed because it does not take into account the volume of cases that are actually received into the office and which should, in fact be the basis for determining staff levels. To use the disposition of cases as the basis to determine whether additional staff is needed or not would mean there would never be any need to add staff because cases are always being handled. The study did not include the figures for the year 2005, indicating the tremendous upsurge in crime in Clayton County. Rather, the study was based on figures from 2002 through 2004.

The study was not based on a comparison between Clayton County's DA's office and any other urban Georgia DA's office. Those responsible for the study could not compile matching statistics or other information from those other DA's offices because it would require substantial effort, cooperation and funding which was not forthcoming. Even if this information were available, the Clayton County DA's Office organizational structure is completely different from all the other urban DA's offices. There are more investigators than attorneys because it costs less to hire an investigator than an attorney.

Despite its organizational difference, however, the Clayton County DA's office has managed to successfully dispose of its cases up to late 2004. Since the inception of 2005, this office has seen a significant increase in felony crimes being reported. In addition, the law enforcement agencies are producing more cases that are being sent to us. If the present trend continues, we will see an increase from 8,556 cases in 2004 to 10,084 in 2005. In 2004 this office saw 23 murder cases for the year. To date in 2005, we already have a reported 29 murder cases.

Having said the above, it is impractical and somewhat illogical to expect the Clayton County DA's office to handle the increase with the current staff levels. What can be expected is that our staff will be overworked to the point that morale decreases along with work productivity. We are facing a serious morale issue although the staff continues to do what they can.

Even though we believe The Carl Vinson Staffing Study is flawed in many respects, there are points of strength mentioned in the study. Because of the current systems in place, the DA's office has a fairly sophisticated and integrated criminal justice system which allows us to move jail cases quickly to indictment and therefore reduce the time spent in jail for an inmate. The current average cost per day for an inmate is approximately $50.00 per day. Our office saves the county considerable funds for each inmate processed and released from jail. The study proposes that, economically speaking, the best outcome would be to fund the DA's office at a level that would allow the office to lower the length of stay in jail as much as possible. This is what we continue to urge the commissioners to do.

Jewel C. Scott

District Attorney

Show up and

voice your opinion

To the editor:

There will be a zoning hearing at the Jonesboro Police Headquarters June 27 at 6 p.m. This may very well be the most important public hearing that the city as conducted. Impacting each individual property owner more than the disbanding of the Jonesboro Volunteer Fire Department and the outsourcing of our previously city controlled sanitation collection services.

Each and every property in the city has been evaluated with zoning changes affecting all property owners within the city. The city wants to initiate these changes in order to exercise more control over individual property rights. These changes have been recommended by consultants contracted by the city at the request of City Manager Jon Walker.

As most everyone should be aware of by now, Jon Walker does not have a vested interest in this city. He neither owns property in the city nor resides in the city. Yet he continues to try to impress upon our citizenry his ideas of how we should conduct our lives and manage our own property.

These changes will affect not only our rights as individuals to pick our own exterior paint colors but also our choices of what kind of exterior coverings we can select. Vinyl siding will not be allowed unless it meets the specifications of Jon Walker and his consultants.

Commercial real estate in the city will be greatly affected also. Offices downtown will be mandated to have retail space on the first floor should they decide to make any changes from their current utilization. This should be of great concern to every business owner in the city.

As this is an election year and the City Council is certain to have a very different make-up come January, I would strongly recommend that each and every citizen contact the Mayor and City Council members and ask them to defer the vote on this important matter until the new council is selected in January.

This should be the most urgent matter on your mind at this time. Please do not be blind-sided again. It is urgent that you show up and voice your opposition and demand that the vote on this matter be deferred until January.

ROGER GRIDER

Jonesboro

Never forget

the past

To the editor:

City Councilman Rip Sewall informed Jonesboro Residents at the June 13 council meeting that there was a problem with people urinating all over Jonesboro.

This is nothing compared to the hosing the citizens will get if they fail to attend the public hearings on zoning changes, and proposed milllage rates/property tax increases - both to be held at Jonesboro Police Department June 27 at 6 p.m. and June 30 at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Never forget the past and how this council has not represented you or your wishes. They have not changed. Attend these meetings and be heard.

NANCY COFFMAN

Jonesboro

Buffet stench is

a personal problem

To the editor:

Re: "Dealing with buffet-style stench"

If Justin Boron is the government reporter, why is he writing such junk as the above mentioned article? This matter was/is totally out of character!

I don't believe most people feel that they come from a restaurant laden with stench. If they do, that's their problem, not one that the general public needs to fear or dread.

What is Justin's motive in trying to damage the image of buffet restaurants? In my humble opinion, he needs to "grow up" a bit more.

I am a member of the Georgia Peach Writers (we meet monthly at the Headquarters Library on Battlecreek Road) and I avidly read the newspapers, looking for "opinions" and "letters to the editor." Assuredly, I don't always agree with the message, but I look for merit, worthiness and helpfulness.

Either get Justin to take more training or stay in the field for which he is trained.

HELEN P. STEELE

Riverdale

Why are taxpayers

footing the bill?

To the editor:

Morrow-Lake City politicians saw a way a few years ago to increase traffic congestion, over work public safety employees, put a great burden on the water system, and I can't go on without getting sick at my stomach. I, of course, am talking about the Gateway project. Shops, offices, motels, hotels, conference centers, etc. Jonesboro Road would become the greatest thing that had ever existed or been dreamed of in the state of Georgia, maybe in the United States or even the world. So far all that has been accomplished is six or seven acres of trees cut down, a big pile of dirt and houses moved. When this started I worried about losing my property and I had several city officials, elected and unelected tell me that there was no danger of eminent domain, that this project was a private company development. They would have to buy the land at the seller's price. Last week Morrow asked for a zillion dollar bond issue to finance a hotel/conference/training center/hot dog stand/pizza joint/massage parlor/a park with a fountain/and a walking area. Gadzooks you can't get no better than that.

If this is a private company operation why are the taxpayers being asked to cough up the money?

Now the Supreme Court has ruled that government can take private property away from individuals if it might generate more taxes.

Lake City has not collected taxes on private homes for several years and I don't even want to go there as to how. Now you can bet your whatever that any commercial building will produce much taxes. With these new taxes the city will be able to afford to hire more police, more police cars, that will be needed because of the thousands and thousands of people that will flock to the city (kinda like tourist flock to the hysterical court house and train station in Jonesboro). Hey maybe even give existing city employees a much needed raise.

Another example of how individual freedom, guaranteed by the Constitution is being destroyed by a bunch of liberal judges and politicians. I have only lived in Lake City (and owned a house) for 30 years and I can only imagine how families that own property that has been owned by their families for 100s of years feel.

It is close to the time when the people are going to have to rise up and stop what is going on. We can vote them out, we can vote out those that support them. It can be done. We need to work on it.

WILLIAM E. MITCHELL

Sgt. Major, U.S. Army, Ret.

Morrow