SAN ANGELO, TX – Tom Green County Commissioners Tuesday took the first step in creating a Public Defender's Office during their regular meeting.
The court approved a resolution to apply for a Texas Indigent Defense Commission (TIDC) Improvement Grant to partially fund what will be the Concho Valley Public Defender's Office.
The purpose for creating a Public Defender's Office is to reduce the cost of providing attorneys for defendants who cannot afford an attorney. Currently the seven county region including Tom Green, Coke, Concho, Irion, Runnels, Schleicher and Sterling counties spends about $2.4 million each year on indigent defense.
Under the Concho Valley Public Defender's Office officials report an estimated savings of $1.2 million each year because of the grant from the TIDC.
The Concho Valley Public Defender's Office will have a staff of 23 including 15 attorneys; a Chief Defender, eight felony defenders, four misdemeanor defenders, a juvenile defender and an appellate/research defender.
The Chief Defender's salary is proposed at $180,000 per year with felony defenders making $80,008 per year and misdemeanor defenders at $75,873.
Other members of the Defender's office will include case workers, investigators and office staff.
Tom Green County Auditor Nathan Cradduck told the court that in addition to saving money, there are fewer private practice attorneys in San Angelo to participate in the assigned councel arrangement where attorneys are appointed and paid by the court on a rotating case-by-case basis.
Cradduck said there are two types of TIDC grants; the standard grant for counties with over 100,000 population and a rural regional sustainability grant for counties with under 100,000 population.
Even though Tom Green County has over 100,000 residents, Cradduck said the county will apply for the rural regional sustainability grant which pays 80% the first year and 66% of the cost after the first year.
Cradduck said the District Judges approve of the plan and most of the surrounding counties are on board as well.
The grant application is due May 7, 2021 and the TIDC board will consider applications over the summer. Grants are expected to be awarded in August. The Concho Valley Public Defender's Office program then could begin in October.
Cradduck said the application would include funds to renovate office space the county already has for the office. The Public Defender's Office would be supervised by a nine member Defender Board which would include one representative from each county plus two community members.