Committee accepts five-year $4M state grant

New Fulton County Public Defender Roger Paul meets with the Fulton County Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee for the first time at its meeting Monday at the County Office Building in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton County Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee on Monday voted to formally apply for and accept a five-year, more-than $4 million state grant to be used by the county Public Defender’s Office.

The proposed resolution will come before the full board at 1 p.m. Feb. 11 for final action.

New Public Defender Roger Paul attended his first committee meeting in that position Monday at the County Office Building, reviewing a massive Hurrell-Harring Settlement Grant the state is looking to provide the county. He replaces former Public Defender Gerard McAuliffe, who became the new county Family Court judge at the start of the year.

“The Hurrell grant we’re approved for is a five-year grant,” Paul said.

He said this is a new grant through the state Office of Indigent Legal Services as the result of the Hurrell-Harring lawsuit. He said that suit has resulted in a statewide implementation of representation to indigent residents of Fulton County.

Upon receipt of the grant funding, Paul said his office will be presenting a budget modification. That modification includes the addition of staff and making positions within the department full-time.

Paul said funding from the first year of the grant will go toward items such as caseloads reduction and quality improvements.

He said staffing “down the line” will include work to tackle data reports, and his office may require a confidential secretary.

“I’m getting a handle on all the grants and the reporting requirements and we’re moving,” Paul said.

The new public defender added, “I’m going very conservatively, very slowly.”

In a separate resolution, the committee passed a resolution to change the language in a new local law by striking the “part-time” references for the public defender title and making them “full-time.”

“Last year, we were starting the process of restructuring the Public Defender’s Office,” said county Administrative Officer Jon Stead.

But Stead said one of the “procedural” steps was to make all the language related to the public defender position was clearly full-time and delete part-time references.

By Josh Bovee

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