For More Information Contact:
Karl Schlegel, 845-486-2068
Karl Schlegel, 845-486-2068
Dutchess County Comptroller Robin Lois today released an audit report on the Dutchess County Public Defender’s Office. The Public Defender’s constitutional function and local mission is to represent indigent criminal defendants in Criminal Court, adult litigants in Family Court, and individuals facing parole matters.
"The work of the Public Defender’s Office is of great importance to the residents of Dutchess County and to ensuring the constitutional rights of those in the criminal justice system," said Dutchess County Comptroller Robin Lois. "Our audit found several opportunities for the Public Defender’s Office to improve fiscal operations, specifically when it comes to consistently tracking and documenting revenues and expenses, incomplete reconciliations, and oversight of the accounting process."
Other highlights of the report include:
The Public Defender’s Office has recently seen unprecedented growth; budgeted expenses in the department between 2012 and 2019 have doubled to over $7 million dollars annually. Most of these increases were the direct result of new initiatives or programs implemented by the Office, and many are financially supported by State grants.
“The Public Defender has been diligent and proactive in securing New York State grant funds and being in the forefront of state-wide initiatives, implementing several evidenced-based programs,” added Comptroller Lois. “My concern in this area is that the County maintain a responsible and sustainable growth for this department. If, or when, these state funding initiatives come to an end, the Dutchess County taxpayers could be left with the responsibility to either maintain the extensive department and services or cut the budget, the services, and the employees. For this reason, I believe it is imperative that the Public Defender put in place internal control procedures, including attorney performance metrics and client success measures, in order to allow for accurate measurement and evaluation of the effectiveness and operating efficiencies of the program over time.”
This audit comes as the County grapples with the impacts of impending criminal justice reforms set to take effect in January – specifically, bail reform.
“In addition to all of this recent change and growth in the Public Defender’s office, we still do not know the effects that the recent New York Bail Reform Law that goes into effect in January 2020 will have on the Public Defender’s Office or the County’s criminal justice system as a whole. We, as a County, will need to be diligent and proactive in our monitoring and response to the imminent changes to come,” concluded Comptroller Lois.