Transcripted request: Public defender requests more, but expenses unknown

Overall, the Auglaize County public defender expects his budget to increase in 2012, but its the unknown each year that makes it hard to craft a budget.
Public Defender Gerald Siesel proposed a budget of $275,646, an increase of 3 percent for 2012 when he met recently with Auglaize County commissioners.
Line items to increase include $7,280 for a total of $34,280 in other expenses, $2,000 for a total of $6,000 in transcripts, and an increase of $600 for a total of $9,450 in rental facilities.
“I have little or no control over the increases,” Siesel said.
He said transcripts exceeded his budgeted amount for his office in 2011, with one case alone costing $4,000, and several other cases required transcripts, too.
Siesel said money set aside for interpreters may not be enough. Funds also need to be made available for medical examinations should second opinions be needed.
Covered under other expenses, Siesel said they continue to see increases in counsel assigned out-of-house to cases involving conflict, with co-defendents not able to be represented by the office.
“We were able to do it for 25 years and didn’t disclose information or talk about cases but the attorney general has decided that we have to go out of house,” Siesel said. “It’s been growing and growing and growing.”
He said the county office was charged $6,000 he didn’t know was coming this year by a state office for conflict representation.
With at least two appeals in Columbus now, Siesel said he knows they are going to be seeing more bills.
“This is our best estimate,” Siesel said. “My concern is if we don’t put enough in that line item we may run out of money.”
He said this year they tried to move money around from other funds to cover the costs.
“Historically, we had more money to play around with but it’s running very lean,” Siesel said. “We could see the point next year where we have a problem covering.”
Siesel said he’s working on an idea to contract with a couple attorneys who may be willing to take some conflict cases for a set fee and help keep costs down.
“It’s a mechanism we could use to put a cap on the ever increasing line item,” Siesel said.
He said he’d like to implement such a plan within the first quarter of 2012.
Line items Siesel proposed decreasing included $1,000 in supplies to $3,000 and $500 to $1,500 in contract services.
Siesel said once they are able to move into the Auglaize County Courthouse, with renovations complete, the office also should incur some savings, including rent, which he budgeted for the whole year, and cleaning, which would be done by county crews once back in a county building.