Council hears plea for more funding

Prosecutor seeking $86,000 more in fiscal 2000 budget

May 19, 1999|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The fledgling administration of Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens has not provided State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee enough money to run his office in the coming year, he complained yesterday.

Weathersbee and Theodore Sophocleus, his office administrator and political ally, told the County Council that even with belt-tightening, the office still would need $86,000 more.

Owens allowed $5.2 million for the prosecutor, $418,000 more than his current budget, in her spending plan for the year that starts July 1, which she sent to the council this month.

A spokesman for Owens said most county agencies are in similar situations because the executive wants to funnel money to the public schools, which have skyrocketing maintenance needs. Agency heads have been asking her to give them more money in a supplemental appropriation.

A few council members appeared sympathetic to the longtime prosecutor, but the council has no authority to add to Owens' budget proposal for departments other than schools. The council must approve a budget by May 30.

Weathersbee said Owens' prediction of a $60,000 savings from staff turnover is unrealistic, given that the turnover rate among his staff of about 100 is low. In the past year, two attorneys have left, and neither had been there more than a few years. Sophocleus said the figure should be about $10,000.

Weathersbee said the cost of prosecution is unpredictable and that in some years his office has returned more than $50,000 to the county.

But his office needs at least $36,000 more for such costs as extradition, housing out-of-town witnesses, paying parking fees for crime victims and telephone lines to connect attorneys in the Glen Burnie District Court office to the office computer system in Annapolis, he said.

Weathersbee had hoped to add four attorneys, three in District Court and one in Circuit Court specializing in white-collar crime. He has long sought to create a unit with expertise in white-collar prosecution, this year requesting a lawyer and part-time paralegal at a cost of $75,000. Again, he was turned down.

"More and more of the cases we see are the kinds of cases that require lengthy document searches and investigation," Weathersbee said.

Computer crimes, sophisticated fraud and preying on the elderly are among them.

Weathersbee's office once had a retired Internal Revenue Service worker as an investigator; another has been volunteering to pitch in.

Similarly, he hoped to have District Court attorneys specialize in domestic violence cases, because more than one-fourth of cases there involve domestic violence.

Pub Date: 5/19/99

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