The Board of Josephine County Commissioners held an administrative workshop in their conference room Nov. 3.
Josephine County District Attorney Josh Eastman made an appearance in the conference room to discuss how Fund 12 law enforcement funding should be divided up among law enforcement entities in the county.
Eastman said that while the DA’s office doesn’t bring in much revenue apart from state grants, his budget is consistent and, in fact, he is currently under budget due to unfilled assistant DA positions that have been unfilled for the entirety of his tenure.
“It used to be a Josephine County problem,” said Eastman, regarding the staffing shortage, “but lately I think it’s been a statewide prosecutor problem, with regards to private sector starting salaries.”
Board Chair Herman Baertschiger added that the same problem exists with finding judges.
According to Eastman, public defenders are in short supply, again because of higher starting salaries in private firms.
Baertschiger inquired, “You have a right to an attorney; what happens if we don’t have an attorney?”
Eastman responded that while he has not heard anything about this being a common problem anywhere in Oregon, courts would be forced to dismiss cases if there were no public defenders available to be assigned to indigent defendants.
Commissioner Darin Fowler asked Eastman how his office would be impacted if stable law enforcement funding is not secured in Josephine County.
Eastman answered by recounting what steps were taken in 2012, when law enforcement funding was at an all-time low.
The district attorney has also taken on caseloads he would otherwise assign to assistant DAs due to the staffing shortage.
“We have to make charging decisions based on resources,” added Eastman.
Fowler praised Eastman for being able to handle an influx of cases brought about in the wake of Sheriff Dave Daniel’s fight against illegal cannabis growers.
“They’ve been throwing cases your way,” said Fowler. “You have responded to that as best you can and in a way the rest of the state goes, ‘How come there’s so much going on down there in Josephine County?’ So I really appreciate that because I think that represents the spirit of law enforcement supporting our county.”
Fowler went on, “I am very concerned about funding for you and Juvenile Justice alongside of supporting the ability of our sheriff if we don’t find replacement funding.”
Earlier in the meeting, the commissioners were joined by JoCo Real Property Manager Helene Lulich, who detailed the designation of forestry properties, including a few located in the Illinois Valley.
One of the properties was a 121.52-acre lot located off of Lone Mountain Rd. in O’Brien, which was acquired by the county through foreclosure in 1971; a nearby property acquired through foreclosure in 2003 amounting to 20.02 acres was also set to be designated.
An 80-acre property off of Redwood Hwy. rounded off the Illinois Valley properties; this one was classified as historic county ownership and has been managed by the forestry department.
Baertschiger was puzzled that the properties had been in county inventory for so many decades without having been designated.
Lulich explained that JoCo Forestry Director Dave Streeter has made an effort to “clean up” undesignated forestland, and the designation of these three properties was the result of that effort.
The designation of these properties, as well as others located in Merlin, New Hope and Wolf Creek, will be discussed at today’s weekly business session.