Lawrence County Council vote 4-2 for additional funds to pay contract lawyers

LAWRENCE COUNTY – During the Lawrence County Council meeting Tuesday evening, Chief Public Defender Bruce Andis’ request for an additional $50,000 for contract lawyers was approved in a 4-2 vote.

Chief Public Defender Bruce Andis

Lawrence County Council members Rick Butterfield and Jeff Lynton voted against the additional appropriation following the question from council members on why the public defender’s office is still needing additional funds for his office.

Lawrence County Councilmember Rick Butterfield was the first to question why the county continues to payout for additional contract lawyers, to which Andis replied it was due to the fact the office was down to three attorneys, and are needing to pay for aid.

“We will be down one attorney, following the hiring of two public defenders. It is hard to be competitive when you pay $65,000 and other counties pay $85,000. We have had three applications since we posted the openings, and COVID-19 has made it difficult as well.”

Lawrence County Council President Scott Smith

Lawrence County Council President Scott Smith then questioned whether the public defender board was to be active in recommending salaries for the attorneys.

“During the budget process we have never been able to get these issues addressed,” said Smith. “It is my understanding that the public defender board is responsible for coming up with the amount that will be needed for the year, and we find ourselves dealing with this every other month.”

By Indiana, Public Defenders Commission rules the committee is supposed to be active in the budget process. The public defender board consists of Brent Steele, Bill Spreen, and newly appointed member Jerry Hill.

During the 2022 budget process, the Lawrence County Council did increase the salaries at the recommendation of Andis. During that time Lawrence County Jeff Lytton wanted an accurate budget for the Public Defender’s Office.

The proposed budget for the public defender’s office is $1 million, however, the council reduced the budget to just over $900,000. The county is reimbursed for part of the public defenders’ salaries if the county complies with the standards set by the state.