MOUNT VERNON — Knox County Public Defender Bruce Malek is falling back on a four-year-old law not yet enforced in Knox County to bring a projected $20,000 to his budget to help offset a proposed reduction of $66,575.
The law, which went into effect, Sept. 29, 2005, requires those applying for legal assistance through the public defender’s office to pay a $25 application fee.
“It’s a nominal fee; it’s been approved by the state,” Malek said. “Twenty-five dollars is a fee that should be able to be met by virtually 100 percent of the people that come into our office.”
In talking with the state public defender’s office, the fee is used by public defenders throughout Ohio to generate revenue.
Once implemented in Knox County, Malek’s office would retain $20 and the state would receive $5 per application.
The public defender’s office saw 962 cases in 2008, Malek said. As of Sept. 30, 750 applications were received this year and he projects 1,000 applications will be taken in 2010. He also stated 55 applications have been declined so far this year.
“Those people were told they would have to get private counsel because they were not indigent,” Malek said.
No set date has been established to implement the application fee but Malek believes lose ends can be tied up before the end of the year.
Additional cuts from Malek’s budget came from 2010 having only 26 pay periods as apposed to 27 in 2009, and a 35 percent reduction in assigned counsel fees and the establishment of caps in certain circumstances.
Further cutbacks were difficult, according to Malek, because 98.56 percent of his budget is salary-related expenses.
At the close of the meeting, Allen Stockberger, commission president, reminded Malek budget numbers were preliminary.
“Nothing is etched in stone. We will get all of our information together, see totals, see our resources and try to make it work. Hopefully, we can make it work with all the numbers submitted,” Stockberger said.