GREEN BAY - Law enforcement officers in Brown County are making the arrests, but prosecutors are having trouble keeping up in court.
A shortage of state-funded prosecutors has Brown County looking to use local tax dollars to try and clear more cases. District attorney David Lasee says getting to every case is a struggle.
"We're doing our best to keep our head above water on a regular basis but we are substantially understaffed and it does affect the performance of the office," said Lasee.
With the shortage of prosecutors in the district attorney's office that means some cases are not being addressed in a timely matter. Charges are put off for months with some suspects out on the streets.
"It really depends on the nature of the case," said Lasee. While the most serious crimes are addressed on a timely basis, he says his office is waiting to issue charges on other cases that are up to one year old.
Brown County has 14 prosecutors on staff including district attorney Lasee. But the state Department of Administration evaluating the demands of DA offices around the state found a need for 12 additional prosecutors in Brown County.
"The state's supposed to provide us with these prosecutors and they're just dropping the ball," said Brown County Supervisor Thomas DeWane.
So with state funding no where to be had, DeWane appealed to the county's Public Safety Committee to approve $150,000 in one-time funding.
"One-hundred-fifty thousand dollars would be enough for two fulltime prosecutors but that's it," said Lasee, meaning support staff and supplies would cost extra.
Those prosecutors would address the 200-to-300 drug cases that have piled up, cases that account for some 1,000 charges.
But why should the county pay for what the state is supposed to pay for?
"The problem is if you do nothing then what are the citizens of Brown County going to do in response to you doing nothing. It's a catch 22 deal but it should be brought to light," said Bill Clancy, Brown County Supervisor.
But for the past four years Brown County taxpayers have already been paying for one drug prosecutor on staff to help supplement the local need when the state did nothing to help.
"We feel it's the state, it's their responsibility and we encourage our local representatives to go a get this fixed," said Richard Parins with the Brown County Taxpayers Association.
State legislators last year approved raises for assistant district attorneys to help keep them from leaving for better paying jobs, but no money for additional prosecutors.
Next week the Brown County Board will debate the one-time payment to the district attorney's office to get some temporary help.
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