COURT HOUSE – Acting Superior Court Assignment Judge William Todd will hold a conference in the courthouse here at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow between freeholders and the county Prosecutor to set up the parameters for hearing both sides in the controversy over county funding.
Prosecutor Robert Taylor filed the Bigley action – named for the Camden County prosecutor whose 1969 case set the precedent for such appeals – March 15, the day after freeholders adopted their 2006 budget.
Taylor and attorney Russell Lichtenstein, representing the freeholders, met that day with Judge Todd, according to Taylor.
Taylor is seeking 15 additional personnel this year and 19,000 additional square feet of office space. He has suggested the third floor of the county courthouse.
The county says the price tag of what he seeks could be as much as $9 million over a three-year period and another $2.5 million a year thereafter.
Taylor charges the office of the prosecutor has been underfunded for years, and increases in criminal activities, especially drug use, plus additional responsibilities including Megan’s Law and homeland security justify the additional funding.
Democrat Taylor told the Herald the Republican freeholders never responded to his March 1 request they meet prior to final adoption of their $126-million budget.
“They never contacted me to sit down or have any conversations or negotiations,” he said.
“There was no need to meet,” said county Administrator Steve O’Connor. “I did not anticipate any movement by the freeholders.”
Taylor said he intends to call First Assistant Prosecutor J. David Meyer, Chief of Detectives James Rybicki, and representatives of the Division of Justice of the state Attorney General’s Office as witnesses.
O’Connor said the county’s list of witnesses was not yet developed, but the county will seek “the methodology” being used in Taylor’s claims that this county spends less than other counties on the Prosecutor.
“One thing I am interested in,” said O’Connor, “is that Robert Codey was assigned here as acting prosecutor to conduct an audit and evaluation of the office. When he left after eight months, he never conveyed anything to the freeholders about any weaknesses within his operations. Where is his report?”
Codey, brother of then state Senate President Richard Codey, was Taylor’s predecessor in that position from February to October 2004.
O’Connor said the county would challenge Taylor’s request to “reopen all the contracts and change the salary scales. We will show that there have been substantial increases in the salaries, especially of investigators and assistant prosecutors.”
In a news release March 17, Taylor said freeholders were “turning a blind eye to the very alarming and dangerous trends in drug dealing, drug usage, drug addiction and overdoses” in the county.
He said heroin seizures in ounces increased more than 700 percent in 2005 over 2004, 48 ounces compared to less than six ounces which translated to some 27,000 bags with a street value of some $678,000.
He said cocaine seizures were up more than 326 percent in 2005, from 34 ounces in 2004 to 146 ounces in 2005, which translated to 46,000 bags with a street value of some $992,000.
“I look forward to presenting this information to someone who will listen,” he concluded.
Contact Zelnik at (609) 886-8600 Ext. 27 or: email@example.com
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