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Letters to the Editors

Defender: My plan is better and costs less

© St. Petersburg Times
published September 22, 2002

Re: Pasco shouldn't pay for defender's ploy, Sept. 19 editorial.

Editor: Since 1999, the public defender caseload in Pasco county has increased 50 percent, by 5,000 cases, while the Pinellas caseload has increased 25 percent, by 10,000 cases. During that time, the state budget to the public defender's office was cut by more than $200,000 and then partially restored, leaving a net loss of more than $125,000.

Neither Pinellas nor Pasco provides any employees to the public defender. All employees are state funded. The reality is there is more work and not enough money in the public defender budget to hire people to do the work.

There are only two solutions: money to hire attorneys for the office, or the office needs to withdraw from the increased volume. The hiring of attorneys is the most cost-effective manner, because the cost per case in the Public Defender's Office is less than $250, while withdrawing costs $800. The simplistically offered solution of transferring Pasco cases to the Pinellas attorneys is unworkable for many reasons. The Pinellas attorneys all carry active caseloads requiring them to make daily court appearances, conduct depositions and fulfill appointments of both in- and out-of-custody clients. They simply can't spend two to three hours of travel and the necessary time in the courtroom and with clients to accommodate the Dade City overload when they are carrying full caseloads in Pinellas. The suggestion by the Pasco County finance department that I transfer personnel from Pinellas and then seek the revenue from Pinellas seems quite inappropriate, particularly because the largest percentage increase is in Pasco.

I fully agree that this should be a state responsibility. Unfortunately, the state has not funded this responsibility, and my constitutional duty to adequately represent indigent clients requires adequate funding. This problem is not limited to this circuit. Together, Hillsborough, Hernando, Miami-Dade and Lee have been providing millions of dollars for the sole purpose of providing additional attorneys to remedy this same problem. This dilemma is not solved by creating a dilemma in Pinellas, because Pinellas is currently strained to the extent that a desire by the judges to open a new criminal division could not occur because of the lack of staff from this office and the state attorney.

This decision has not been made lightly. I just hope the people who are having knee-jerk reactions against this understand that a problem that could have been remedied for approximately $150,000 may, because of certain government officials' reactions, cost the county six or seven times that amount. That is not my desire, and my record shows that I have always been fiscally conservative and very protective of taxpayer dollars.
-- Bob Dillinger, public defender, Sixth Circuit

Police proposal is worth pursuing

Re: Neighbor city may offer plan for police, Sept. 19.

Editor: As a New Port Richey resident, I read with interest that the New Port Richey City Council may consider offering the services of its Police Department to neighboring Port Richey. It is my opinion that this is an idea worth pursuing.

The New Port Richey Police Department is a top-notch municipal law enforcement agency. The trained professionals do excellent work providing this needed service to city residents. If the police chief is of the opinion that his department can provide the services required in Port Richey at a cost that will not compromise the already efficient work being done in New Port Richey, then I urge the City Council to look further at the proposal.

If the police and city leaders are not of that opinion, then the idea should be shelved.

Whatever the outcome of discussions may be, this proposal is an idea that should be considered. New Port Richey should be proud of its law enforcement capabilities. If it is prudent to extend those services to a neighboring municipality, then go forward. If not, then at least the concept would have been given a fair hearing.
-- Greg Giordano, New Port Richey

Elections supervisor, staff did good job

Editor: Hats off to Pasco County Elections supervisor Kurt Browning and staff. The training paid off, and our end results in the election told it all.
-- Thelma Vadocholsky, New Port Richey

Gun opponent should read Constitution

Re: What was Bill Bunting bragging about? Sept. 19 letter.

Editor: Letter writer Arthur Hayhoe, the antigun lobbyist who changes the name of his organization every few months, is unfairly critical of Bill Bunting's efforts to get judicial candidates elected.

Mr. Bunting is very active in Pasco County politics. With the Second Amendment Club, he organized a public forum in Dade City for people to question judicial candidates on various issues. Mr. Hayhoe is upset because it was reported that all but one of the judicial candidates are proud gun owners.

Following the forum, Mr. Bunting (as he often does) chose to help five of the candidates. Four of them won their respective races. If you do the math, that's an 80 percent success rate.

Mr. Hayhoe finishes his letter with his usual condemnation of gun shows, the NRA, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

I understand Mr. Bunting dropped off a copy of the Constitution to the Pasco Times. If they are finished with it, perhaps they could give it to Mr. Hayhoe.
-- Eric Stallworth, Holiday

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