Cortland County Legislature Approves Staffing Changes in Public Defenders Office
The Cortland County Legislature has approved a staffing change in the County Public Defender’s office, the move eliminates two secretarial positions and replaces them with two paralegal positions.
County Public Defender Ed Goehler reiterated last night that making this change should improve efficiency, reduce costs, and better serve clients in the Cortland County Public Defender’s Office. Goehler was also confident that this change could help alleviate some of the backlog in the local legal system including moving accused individuals out of the overcrowded County jail faster.
The legislature was very divided over the change, lawmakers voted 10-8 in favor of the shift.
Several legislators questioned why the changes are being made now after so many years operating with secretaries, why the sudden need for paralegal positions.
Goehler explained that the demands on the office have change substantially, but the staffing structure has not. Goehler said currently there is one paralegal in that office and 4 full time attorneys, the paralegal cannot handle the entire workload and the secretary positions cannot perform the duties that a paralegal can.
Republican Majority Leader Susan Briggs voted against the staffing changes, she said she is concerned that the county will be paying paralegals to answer phones in that office.
Republican Legislator Kevin Whitney who heads up the committee that oversees the Public Defender’s Office says the legislatures job is to listen to the department heads and give them the tools to do job they are tasked with, in this case it’s realigning staff to meet the needs in that office.
Because the paralegals will be hired at a lower salary than the current secretaries it is expected to save taxpayers $11 thousand dollars at least in the first year, eventually through annual salary increases the positions may cost more than the current secretaries.
The two secretaries who are losing their jobs now go on a preferred hiring list with the county and would have the opportunity to move into other secretarial positions that may be open or open up.