Commissioners approve additional position for County Attorney’s Office

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

Leavenworth County commissioners approved a request Wednesday for an additional legal secretary in the County Attorney’s Office. But commissioners took no action for a request for an additional prosecuting attorney for the county.

County Attorney Todd Thompson was asked to bring back the request for an additional assistant county attorney position later this year when commissioners work on the county’s 2022 budget.

Thompson, who is an elected official, sought approval from the County Commission for the two additional positions because commissioners approve funding for the County Attorney’s Office.

Thompson said the additional positions were needed because of increased workloads.

“We have had a lot of changes within our office and the within courts that has caused an extra burden on my office,” Thompson said.

He said a judge has made additional requirements resulting in additional paperwork for his staff. He said a new legal secretary can help address this extra workload.

Thompson expressed concern the additional assistant county attorney may be needed to deal with a backlog once jury trials resume.

Leavenworth County District Court has not had a jury trial for the past year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thompson said he also would like to have the additional attorney on hand as he looks to initiate new programs such as a cold case unit.

Commission Chairman Mike Smith said he believes Thompson is doing a good job. But Smith said he “would like to see these things at budget time.”

Smith said he knows things come up, but mid-year budget requests make it tough for commissioners.

In information he provided to commissioners, Thompson indicated about $45,000 in funding would be needed for the legal secretary and about $90,000 for the assistant county attorney for a total of about $135,000.

Thompson said during Wednesday’s meeting that these figures were based on a full year rather than a partial budget year.

County Administrator Mark Loughry said the county’s budget for 2021 already has been set.

In order to fund Thompson’s request, commissioners would have to cut from another line item in the budget, Loughry said.

“So we would have to go into someone else’s budget and reduce their budget to offset this request,” Loughry said.

Thompson said he would have liked to have brought up this request during budget time, but his staff is being taxed.

“I hate taking money from anybody else,” Thompson said. “I hate taking money from taxpayers.”

Commissioner Doug Smith expressed concern about how actions taken by state legislators may impact the county’s budget in the future. He questioned whether the county will be able to absorb the expense of the additional positions in the 2022 budget.

Loughry said the positions, if approved, will continue to require funding in future years.

“I would like to know where the money is coming from,” Doug Smith said.

Thompson said the legal secretary is his priority among the two proposed positions.

Loughry said his first thought for funding the legal secretary position would be to use $50,000 that has been budgeted for mid-year funding requests. He said this budget item has been used in the past to fund requests from outside agencies, but the money is not obligated for anything at this time.

Commissioners approved a motion to authorize the additional legal secretary position.

Mike Smith suggested commissioners can revisit the request for the additional assistant county attorney position when they work on next year’s budget.

“We’ll see you back at budget time,” he told Thompson.

In other business

The Leavenworth County Commission:

• Approved an agreement with McAfee Henderson Solutions, Lenexa, for redesign and construction engineering services for a 158th Street project for an amount not to exceed $278,149.

• Approved an application to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for various grants for the Leavenworth County Health Department totaling $848,926.