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Study shows DA overstaffed with investigators

By Justin Boron

jboron@news-daily.com

Clayton County District Attorney Jewel Scott says she needs more investigators out of next year's budget but a study of her department's staffing needs suggests otherwise. However, the same study shows that the District Attorney's office is understaffed in other areas.

A Carl Vinson Institute of Government study, distinct from the organizational assessment the group recently did on the county government, shows that the District Attorney's Office is overstaffed with investigators but lacks the necessary support staff such as secretaries and clerks.

An Open Records request to the county for all Carl Vinson related documents did not produce the report, but the News Daily obtained a draft copy.

Scott said the report was conflicted in its findings and can't be used to define her department's staffing needs accurately.

"It was very inconclusive," she said.

On Tuesday, Scott asked the Clayton County Board of Commissioners to amplify her staffing budget so she can handle the rising caseloads fueled by a recent spike in felony crimes.

Budget reports show she had asked for an increase in the number of investigators early in the budget proceedings. But those requests were denied in the proposed budget County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell brought to the commission for approval.

The $136.6 million is scheduled to be approved June 21.

Bell said he agreed with the Carl Vinson study.

"We've got to give that some credibility," he said.

Bell also said the decision to grant the extra investigators was up to the commissioners.

But he said he wouldn't support them and that the prior district attorney managed with the current staff levels.

The Carl Vinson study was spurred by the prior county commission's transfer of two legal assistant positions from the district attorney's office to the Superior Court.

In March, the county commission approved a study of the District Attorney's Office as well an organizational study by Carl Vinson.

John O'Looney, a senior public service associate for Carl Vinson, said the conclusions were drawn using several different methodologies that produced varying results.

One part of the assessment used interviews and staffing standards for district attorney offices in the region. It looked specifically at the workload of clerks and legal assistants, he said.

"Based on these two methodologies there appeared to be a need for more support staff," O'Looney said.

The other part took a broader look at the office.

"... using a methodology designed to assess the adequacy of the entire staffing level for a district attorney's office, we did not find that the Clayton County District Attorney's office was understaffed. Rather, it was staffed somewhat above the average level for offices in its category," he said.