Pitkin County gives nod to DA’s budget
October 23, 2012
ASPEN – District Attorney Martin Beeson’s budget proposal sailed through its review by Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday. They raised no objections to the proposed $3.19 million spending plan for 2013.
The budget includes a 2 percent wage increase for employees of the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which encompasses Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties.
A year ago, Pitkin County commissioners asked Beeson to back off a requested 2 percent wage hike for 2012, noting the county had built in only a 1.5 percent mid-year bonus for its own employees if revenues met projections (they did). The District Attorney’s Office wound up budgeting a 1.5 percent bonus for its employees, as well.
For 2013, the county has budgeted a 3 percent increase in its total wage allocation; how that money is distributed among employees remains to be determined.
The district attorney’s 2013 budget is up just one-tenth of 1 percent from 2012 despite the planned wage hike, according to Beeson.
“We went through the line items of the budget and trimmed where ever we could to offset that 2 percent,” he said.
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All three counties in the 9th Judicial District must approve the district attorney’s budget; the three counties together will contribute $3.04 million, with other revenue sources making up the remainder.
State statute dictates how much each county pays; the formula is based on population rather than the caseload in each county. Garfield County will pay 70.2 percent next year, while Pitkin will contribute 21.3 percent and Rio Blanco will provide 8.5 percent.
During the first six months of this year, court filings indicate that Pitkin County produced 45 criminal cases, 10 juvenile cases, 198 traffic cases and 112 misdemeanor cases, commissioners were told. Throughout the district, the District Attorney’s Office saw 308 criminal cases, 1,723 traffic cases, 83 juvenile cases and 876 misdemeanor cases.
Pitkin County, Beeson noted, is not generally responsible for incidents of violent crime handled by his prosecutors.
“In the years that I’ve been in office, the lion’s share of violent crime in this district has occurred in Garfield and then Rio Blanco counties,” he said.
One such crime, a murder case, could be among the more costly the 9th Judicial District’s DA has ever prosecuted, and Beeson warned there’s a chance he will need to seek a supplemental appropriation from all three counties after the trial takes place. It had been scheduled in November but is now slated for more than a month in the spring, starting in April.
It will involve multiple witnesses who must be flown in from out of state and overseas. They must also be provided lodging. The defendant, Marcus Bebb-Jones, 48, a British citizen, is accused of killing his Vietnamese-born wife, Sabrina Bebb-Jones, on Sept. 16, 1997, and dumping her body in a remote section of western Garfield County, according to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. Her skull was found in October 2004 by a cowboy looking for stray cattle along Douglas Pass, northeast of Grand Junction. British authorities arrested Bebb-Jones in November 2009 and extradited him to the U.S.
“We will do everything humanly possible to pay for that trial within the approved budget,” Beeson said Tuesday.