Wayne County prosecutor to make case over budget cuts
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy will make her case Wednesday about budget cuts before the Wayne County Commission Public Safety, Judiciary and Homeland Security Committee.
Twenty-two attorneys and three investigators lost their jobs earlier this month because Worthy said she doesn't have the money in her budget from Wayne County to continuing paying them. That leaves the prosecutor's office with about 160 attorneys, 52 fewer than Worthy said are needed.
She's scheduled to go before the committee at 11:30 a.m.
County Executive Robert Ficano allocated her department $26 million, instead of the $34 million Worthy said she had been expecting.
Worthy has said the layoffs are not a stunt, ploy or linked to any personal issue she has with Ficano.
Her office is responsible for prosecuting crime in dozens of communities across the county, along with felonies committed in Detroit, which has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country.
Worthy said her office can't cover the traffic or personal protection order dockets.
Some 36th District Court judges have had to allow defendants in misdemeanor cases to walk and those facing tickets to leave without paying fines or court fees.
The court, like Wayne County and the city of Detroit, has been struggling with budget problems. Nearly $279 million in outstanding fees and fines were uncollected as of June 30, according to a review team that determined Detroit was in a financial emergency.
Court officials, as of early this year, had taken no action to reduce expenditures and had 350 workers while budgeted for 285, the review team said.
Ficano's office has said the county can't afford to fund the prosecutor's office at previous levels.
The county is facing a $160 million budget deficit. Like Detroit, which is the county seat, Wayne County has been hit hard during the national recession. Job losses, especially in manufacturing industries and those that supply Detroit auto companies, have been massive, and the county lost more than 240,000 residents between 2000 and 2010.
Wayne County sheriff's officials expressed concern that the shortage of prosecutors could add to their costs.
"If it takes longer to get a case to court, that person will have to spend more days behind bars," said Paula Bridges, spokeswoman for Sheriff Benny Napoleon. "That means we are going to be paying more to house these individuals."
Bridges said it costs $140 per day to house each inmate. She also said the sheriff's $85 million budget is underfunded by at least $15 million.
Worthy noted that the prosecutor's office budget has been balanced for the past six years and even carried a surplus in two of those years.