By Jacob Mathias
After a state Joint Finance Committee failed to increase assistant district attorneys statewide, Portage County District Attorney Louis Molepske, Jr. said that his office continues to operate under heavy case loads.
Molepske addressed the county’s Judicial/General Government Committee on May 11 to report the lack of budget increase.
Molepske had requested two additional ADAs in the new state budget, even though a recent audit showed the office should have four additional assistant district attorneys. The DA’s office has been staffed at the same level- one DA and three assistant district attorneys- for 20 years.
“We figured if we asked for two, that would be accepted…more acceptable,” said Molepske on Monday. “Unfortunately they gave us nothing. We lobby quite hard with my fellow DAs to get that done…it is disappointing.”
Stan Potocki, committee chair said since the DAs and ADAs are technically employed by the state and not the county, Portage County isn’t able to fund additional staff, but the county does support the staffing increase.
“If you check with the DAs office, the average amount of cases that each ADA has is probably more than any other in the state,” said Potocki, who is also a retired Portage Co. Sheriff. “We’ve been short for a while.”
“Of course we have more people and unfortunately more crimes that are being investigated as law enforcement grows,” Potocki added. “As you add a new officer, we’re not adding a percentage of a new ADA.”
National studies show that acceptable ratios are set at no more than one ADA per 10,000 members of the public, Molepske said, adding his office’s current ratio is one ADA per 15,000, leading to high case loads. According to the most recent census, the county’s population is about 70,000.
Molepske said Portage County’s judicial system has been audited before by the State Court Commission, and showed the county needs an additional judge, but one can’t be added without another courtroom.
“We’ll continue to handle the cases,” he said. “We don’t mean to complain, but we have to respect the fact that only have so many hours in the day to handle these cases and we want to do them in such a way that helps the victim.”
Wage increases are also a concern, he said, adding ADA base salaries had been flat for several years until a recent increase to $49,948. The staff will again see a two percent salary increase- about $1,000- in 2017.
Molepske has been DA since November 2012. Current ADAs are David Knaapen, Cass Cousins and Elizabeth Constable.