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‘No option’ but to hire full-time deputy state’s attorney

Rising criminal court filings and the passage of victim’s rights bill Marsy’s Law have forced the Davison County Commission’s hand.

During Tuesday’s regular commission meeting at the Davison County North Offices, the five-person board unanimously approved the hiring of another full-time deputy state’s attorney. Davison County State’s Attorney Jim Miskimins cited the rise in county felony filings from 276 in 2015 to 384 in 2016, and voter-approved Marsy’s Law’s victim notification mandates as reasons for the increased workload within his office.

Marsy’s Law, which was approved by voters in the November general election, added 19 lines to the South Dakota Constitution, including the reasonable and timely notice for a victim to be present at criminal release hearings and the right to confer with the attorney for the government. Miskimins warned the public that Marsy’s Law could lead to increased staff within the county’s state’s attorney office, and his warning followed through on Tuesday.

Commissioner Denny Kiner, who motioned to approve the new hire, said Marsy’s Law left the county with no choice other than to add staff.

“I think we’re backed into a corner based on the election,” Kiner said. “(Miskimins is) backed into a corner to where he has to service the public in a way that they wanted to be serviced due to Marsy’s Law. I don’t think we have an option.”

The new full-time deputy state’s attorney will replace part-time deputy Braden M. Hoefert, who vacated the position. The new deputy is expected to earn approximately $63,000 and would join fellow deputies Robert O’Keefe and James D. Taylor on the staff.

Miskimins’ plan was approved rather rapidly by the board, and would apply funding saved from a revised contract with Taylor to support a portion of the new full-time deputy’s salary. The commission approved the revision to pay Taylor $48,000 — down from approximately $79,000 — to fund a portion of the new deputy’s salary.

“With the savings from the contract, the $30,000 or $31,000 or thereabouts, I think that we can accomplish it at the same or less output of county funds of hiring an additional clerical person, but having someone that’s trained in the law to work alongside Bob (O’Keefe) and I to make sure that we’re complying with our obligations under Marsy’s Law,” Miskimins said.

The new deputy will also be able to help with the rising amount of Class 1 misdemeanors in the county, which rose from 615 filings in 2015 to 705 filings in 2016. The deputy would also be able to take on the juvenile court responsibilities previously managed by Hoefert, among other items.
Miskimins also said an added full-time employee would help with various other legal issues that might arise in the county.

“Realistically, I think that between the three full-time attorneys, there’s better coverage for matters outside juvenile court that the three of us can work together on to make sure that we’re meeting the additional demands that we have from additional case filings,” Miskimins said.

As the discussion ended and the vote was finalized, Commission Chair Brenda Bode offered one last statement to validate the need for another full-time deputy.

“This is probably not something that the taxpayer is going to want to share the joy of, but it is our reality,” Bode said.

Other business

Approved minutes from the previous commission meeting and the auditor’s account with the treasurer.

  • Approved a 50 cent probationary wage increase for a Davison County Highway Department employee.

  • Authorized an estimated $10,000 to $15,000 to fix a Highway Department excavator. The excavator will be repaired in Sioux Falls, and Highway Superintendent Rusty Weinberg said it hasn’t needed any repairs aside from routine maintenance in 15 years.

  • Approved variances for Teresa Wilson and Brad Gates, as well as a plat for Gates.

  • Signed a memorandum of understanding with the South Dakota State University Extension.

  • Authorized Miskimins to represent the commission with regard to all documentation filed with the Department of Labor regarding a new bargaining unit proposed to represent sergeants at the Davison County Jail.
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