Public defender seeks $300K grant

JOHNSTOWN – Fulton County Public Defender Gerard McAuliffe wants to apply for a three-year, $300,000 state grant to be used for personnel and office equipment.

The Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee recently approved his request to apply for a state Upstate Quality Improvement and Caseload Reduction Grant. The full board will vote on the application Oct. 15.

“We have a possibility for a grant,” McAuliffe told the committee. “It’s competitive for all counties outside of the city.”

The due date for the grant – offered through the state Office of Indigent Legal Services – is Oct. 18.

McAuliffe requested a three-year grant totaling $300,000. He said the state is awarding annual distributions of between $60,000 and $100,000. He said it may be mid-January by the time Fulton County learns whether the grant was approved. He said he wasn’t sure if the grant will continue after this round.

“There’s a significant chance a portion of the grant may be approved and a portion may not,” McAuliffe said.

Board Chairman William Waldron asked what happens if funding for the grant ceases, and McAuliffe said it would be “understood” by he and his staff. Full-time assistants would go to part-time, he said.

McAuliffe also noted he appointed a new assistant for Family Court, who should be starting soon. He said that assistant replaces former part-time Assistant Public Defender Russell P. Martin, who he recently fired. McAuliffe hasn’t stated a public reason for the termination.

McAuliffe said grant funding may be used this way:

Convert the current vacant part-time third assistant public defender – assigned to county Family Court – to full-time. The grant will provide $40,000 necessary to increase the salary from $35,282 part-time to $75,282 full time. McAuliffe said the grant will also fund $20,000 toward benefits.

McAuliffe said converting the position to full-time will improve defense to indigent clients and provide better coordination between assistant public defenders working in criminal courts and family court.

Appropriate $3,200 for a new copier and related accessories to support new office space for the full-time third assistant public defender at the County Office Building.

Increase the annual salary of Fifth Assistant Public Defender Allen Day from $25,375 to $35,375 to make it more “commensurate” with other assistants’ salaries. McAuliffe said.

Appropriate $4,500 – or $400 per month – to add secretarial support for the third assistant. That position doesn’t currently have county-funded secretarial support. McAuliffe also wants to increase allocations to other assistant public defenders for secretarial services by $11,000. He said his four other assistants currently divide $13,400 per year to offset their private secretarial support.

Increase the secretarial services stipend for himself by $6,000 – from $25,000 to $31,000.