Sunday, January 10, 2010

Why are more tax dollars given to Bonnie Dumanis to prosecute when crime rate has gone down and public defenders aren't getting equal increases?

Answer: It seems the new money is paying for a political machine.

See all Bonnie Dumanis posts.

DA's Budgets Go Up While Others Go Down

January 7, 2010
Voice of San Diego

While other public agencies scramble to cut services and jobs, the district attorney's budget is up 65 percent since Bonnie Dumanis took the helm in 2003, from $91 million to $150 million in the fiscal year that ended in June. The number of lawyers is up almost 10 percent during the same period, from 292 to 320.

Dumanis, with her vast political power, has managed to successfully steer the office through a difficult economy by winning federal grants and persuading county supervisors not to cut funding levels.

While there are more lawyers in the office, there appears to be less work to do. Dumanis goes to trial about half as often as her predecessor, according to at least one measure, and trials are what take manpower in a prosecutor's shop.

And, even though crime is at a 25-year low, Dumanis' office is still filing about the same amount of felony cases each year. She's settling at a higher rate than Pfingst, boosting conviction rates but lessening the need for a deluxe squad of prosecutors.

Dumanis lists her 70 percent case-settlement rate -- meaning deals instead of trials -- as one of her biggest accomplishments because it "keeps police officers on the street instead of testifying in court with great savings to the taxpayer and all agencies in the criminal justice system."

"This is not a contest," Dumanis said in an interview.

She and some of her employees have also been criticized privately by law enforcement officials, some current and former deputy district attorneys, plus some defense attorneys and public defenders, for raises -- including a $56,000 increase over three years for Dumanis -- and perks like take-home cars and a new $84,000 office gym.

"Everyone's in freeze mode, even though Bonnie has hired and promoted," said Deputy Public Defender Joe Kownacki, president of the county Public Defenders Association. Both agencies are funded by the county Board of Supervisors, but the District Attorney's Office has other funding sources also. "There's way too much money spent on that side. That place is way overfunded."

...Dumanis has considerably expanded her executive staff, putting together a public relations army that is the talk of the law enforcement and political worlds.

Dumanis' executive staff includes four chief deputies (Pfingst had one), five public affairs officials (Pfingst had two), and a lobbyist and an office historian (Pfingst had neither)...

With the latest raise, she will make $240,739 -- more than the governor of California and significantly higher than the $150,000 salary of predecessor Pfingst. Plus, she earns about $67,000 in benefits annually.

About 173 of Dumanis' employees... have take-home cars. That's about 50 more total cars than under Pfingst, and only two of his executives had cars. The county Public Defenders Office has 10 take-home cars, according to Kownacki, the union president...

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