New hours eyed for PDA office

JOHNSTOWN — Fulton County supervisors on Monday proposed establishing a nights and weekend on-call rate for Public Defender’s Office staff providing counsel at arraignments.

Public Defender Roger Paul requested setting the rate at the Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee meeting at the County Office Building. The committee approved the rate, which goes to the full board July 8 for final approval.

Paul said the Board of Supervisors previously authorized application, acceptance and utilization of a state grant for Counsel At First Appearance, or CAFA funding.

The public defender said he wanted to implement an on-call system to compensate his staff when they respond to attend court arraignments at night or on weekends. The work plan requires representation by an attorney at every arraignment in the county. The plan creates an “on-call” and “called-out” system where an attorney from Paul’s office would be available for arraignments during the period of time courts are not in session — “off hours” — and would be paid an additional amount if “called out” during that time.

Paul said the counsel at arraignment rate schedule may end up costing $126,290 annually, which is a state cost. He said the on-call rate is $100 per day, and the call-out rate is $200 per call out if required.

All funding for this portion of the program, including fringe benefits, is covered by state reimbursement. The on-call annual estimated cost is $54,750. The call-out annual estimated cost is $58,400.

“Hopefully, we built enough [budgeting] on the call outs,” Paul said.

He said his office has six attorneys available to be called for arraignments covered under CAFA. He said supervisors were approving the “second stage” of what he requested regarding counsel at arraignments.

Paul said the first stage was approval already given to have Assistant Public Defender Allen Day cover daytime arraignments. The second stage involves Public Defender Office representation on nights, weekends, holidays on an on-call basis 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“All of what I’m discussing has been approved by the state and is going to be paid for by the state,” Paul said. “There is no cost to the county.”

Paul said the rates set actually represent a “cost savings” to the state.

“That’s why the state approved the plan without batting an eye,” he said.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]

By Patricia Older

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