Funds found to pay for victim-witness position

Warren County officials had to get a little creative to restore funding for the part-time Victim Witness position in the 2013 budget.

Warren County District Attorney Ross McKeirnan said Wednesday that the Warren County Commissioners and Judge Maureen Skerda have agreed to use $10,000 in proceeds from revoked bail bonds to fund the part-time position.

“This is poetic justice because my proposal uses a criminal’s own bail money to fund a vital position which helps crime victims,” McKeirnan said. “I understand these are lean times for government, but Warren County in 2012 spent $302,926.13 on court-appointed lawyers while this part-time victim position only costs about $15,000. Granted, it is a constitutional right to have a government-paid lawyer, but what about funding for a position that helps crime victims?”

A bail bond is akin to an insurance policy to ensure a defendant’s appearance at a criminal proceeding. If a defendant fails to appear the bond can be revoked with proceeds going to the county, McKeirnan said.

A decision can’t be made on the proposal until the commissioners’ next work session and salary board meeting on Monday, Commissioner Chairman Stephen Vanco said

The proposal would “allow us to get through the end of the year under same number of hours we had last year for the position,” he said. “I don’t see a problem with it at this point.”

The remaining $5,000 for the position will either come from state grants, the county or more revoked bail bonds, Vanco said.

The commissioners decided to fund the program until the end of January at their work session meeting last Monday.

County Chief Clerk Pam Matve explained the situation during the meeting. “When she was hired, it was put into the salary board minutes that she would be employed at two days a week as long as there was funding,” she said. “The funding has dried up and we need to make the decision to end the position or keep it going.”

“The Victim Rights Act sets forth the crime victims rights. Among those are informing victims of significant action within the judicial system pertaining to their case, prior comment and input into the prosecution, and to restore as much as possible before the crime through restitution,” McKeirnan said. “I will continue to fight for this critical advocate of victims right position in my office and try to find creative ways of funding.”