County agrees to front for victim-witness position

Funding for the victim-witness position has been approved.

The Warren County Commissioners unanimously agreed to fund the position until the release of the state budget in June during the salary board meeting Monday. The county will cover the cost of $15,000 until reimbursement is received from revoked bail bonds.

“The county will front the money until June,” Commissioner Chairman Stephen Vanco said. “At that time, if we have not received the funds the courts have said will be available then, we’ll have to re-evaluate the position.”

“If it’s forthcoming by June, then we’re good to go, either way whether the state does anything or not,” Commissioner John Eggleston said. “If the state puts the money back in then we’ll be able to assess what we’re going to do going forward based on what that turns out to be. If it’s more money than we’ve got in the past we could expand this position.”

Warren County District Attorney Ross McKeirnan said last Wednesday that the commissioners and Judge Maureen Skerda 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.

The commissioners decided to fund the program until the end of January at their work session two weeks ago.

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 commissioners also agreed on a resolution for the Warren County Visitors Bureau as the recognized promotional agency in the county during their work session on Monday.

Eggleston said the resolution is part of the authorization for the collection of the hotel tax “and as a result of that we have to authorize somebody as our tourist promotion agency so they can receive the hotel tax.”