DA: Criminals escape justice because of White Pine overload
ELY, Nev. (AP) – There are crooks on the streets of Ely.
The police know who they are and have the evidence to arrest them.
But White Pine County District Attorney Sue Fahami says she just doesn’t have the resources to take them to trial.
”I have to prioritize and pick the most violent crimes to prosecute,” Fahami told the Ely Daily Times. ”I’m tired of explaining to victims that I don’t have the time to prosecute their cases.”
She points to a six-inch stack of case folders piled on the corner of her desk. More folders, files and boxes full of paperwork are on the floor under a table.
And last week was the final one for Rusty Jardine, Fahami’s only deputy prosecutor. Her other deputy, Steve Dobrescu, was appointed district judge, leaving only her and Jardine to handle all the cases.
Along with prosecuting criminals – there are about 30 active cases- there are some 800 child support cases. She represents the Division of Child and Family Services in child protection cases, she handles the affairs of those who die without wills, and she provides the White Pine County Commission with legal advice and represents it in civil matters.
There’s not a shortage of lawyers, although it’s never easy to hire an out-of-town attorney at White Pine salaries.
The problem, Fahami said, is the priorities set by the county commission.
As an elected official, Fahami is answerable directly to the voters. But the commission controls all the spending.
”The county commission has not had its priorities straight,” Fahami said. ”They have an attrition policy, but they don’t follow it.”
Fahami has an ally and co-sufferer in her complaints about county hiring: Sheriff Bernie Romero.
Romero has sacrificed seven positions to the cause of frugality over the past five years. When President Clinton made federal money available to add more police officers to the streets of American communities, Romero got five of those positions back.
But now he’s down three and that’s compromising public safety.
”We all worked very hard to bring in a balanced budget,” Romero told the Times. ”I had to lay off two deputies.”
A third has resigned since.
But because of the county attrition policy, Romero can’t fill those three vacancies, nor can Fahami hire two more attorneys.
”I could understand that,” Fahami said, ”if they said they didn’t have money. But they’ve hired several people at the golf course, law clerks and secretaries.”
”I’m not saying the other departments aren’t important,” she said. ”But I can only do what one human can do.”
Commissioner John A. Chachas said her needs and those of the sheriff’s department should be addressed at the next commission meeting on Wednesday.
”But there’s nothing on the agenda,” Romero said.
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