What You Need To Know . . .
Last meeting for many county commissioners; board still handles full agenda and workload

Even though it was the last sitting meeting for many members of the current Johnson County Commission, there was still plenty of work to be done at the courthouse last Thursday night. First on the list was a return visit from Public Defender, Jeff Kelley, who brought some extra information regarding a proposed resolution to add an extra $12.50 on most violations to cover the cost of hiring extra legal aid in the county.

As Kelley explained, five percent of the fee would go to the county Circuit Court Clerk’s office while the rest would serve to build up a fund to hire a local attorney part time to assist the public defender’s office. Sixty-five percent of the state’s 31 multi-county districts already collect similar fees, totaling 47 out of 95 counties. Both Washington and Carter counties nearby have had much success with the extra help, with the biggest benefit being the reduced workload. Currently the public defenders office is involved with 40 percent of the cases on the general sessions docket, even considering the number of minor traffic violations that require no real representation.

There were some questions raised by the commissioners concerning the application process to declare themselves indigent, and Kelley admitted that there is always the problem of perjury or fraud, but also noted that his office has been very diligent in scrutinizing each application and reporting anything illegitimate. Having discussed the proposal at length, Commissioner Jonathan Pleasant expressed his belief that the benefits of implementing the fee outweighed any potential negatives and made a motion to approve the resolution. Pleasant was seconded by Commissioner Jerry Gentry, and the motion carried 11-4 with commissioners Bill Adams, Jimmy Lowe, and Jack Proffitt voting against, and Jerry Grindstaff choosing to pass.  More...

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