Prosecutor cleared to hire new assistant

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Cox hopes new hire will help move more cases forward

Barry County Prosecutor Johnnie Cox is in the process of hiring a full-time assistant prosecutor, hoping the new addition will help move cases forward more quickly.

The Barry County Commission approved Cox to hire another assistant, as Cox already has a part-time assistant in Pat Sullivan, and the new hire's salary will be paid through the 1/8-cent county-wide sales tax passed in April 2013.

"We are accepting applications for an assistant prosecutor and posting the listing on a few places online," Cox said. "The salary will depend on who applies, and we hope to get someone as soon as possible."

Cox said qualifications for the position include having a Missouri license in good standing, as well as an interest in public safety and an interest in protecting the people of Barry County.

"We will probably end up with a lot of applicants who are recent law school graduates," he said. "We're not restricting it to that, but that's where most of our applicants are likely to one from."

Cox said the request for another assistant prosecutor was one of the components of the tax proposal, originally put forward in 2011.

"We ran that proposal again in the spring of 2013, and that was one of the uses of the tax," he said. "The tax's passing is what's making it possible for us to hire a new assistant prosecutor."

Cox said the goal in hiring a new assistant prosecutor is to help with the county's caseload, as Cox said Barry County has the highest caseload in the 39th Judicial Circuit, which includes Barry, Lawrence and Stone counties.

"What we hope to do is make more prosecutors available for hearings and court dates," he said. "A jury trial normally takes two people, so if we are both tied up, we can't take any other cases. If we can have someone else available for a full docket instead of a partial docket, that could help move more cases toward deposition."

Cox said Barry County is also in the upper end of the spectrum when it comes to caseloads in third-class counties across the state.

"We're at the upper end of the spectrum, and other third-class counties have had multiple assistant prosecutors for the past number of years," he said.

According to Gary Youngblood, Barry County clerk, the 1/8-cent county-wide sales tax is expected to produce an estimated $380,000 in revenue in 2014, part of which will fund the new assistant prosecutor's salary. Cox and Youngblood said the salary will be negotiated and depend on the new hire's qualifications and experience.

Youngblood said although the budget reflects $380,000 in revenue from the tax, that number may jump to $440,000 in coming years.

"We've projected that if the tax brought in one quarter of what the 1/2-cent tax brings in, it would be around $440,000," he said. "But, it will take a few months to get everything through the state and back to us, so that's why we have the $380,000 in the budget for 2014. Hopefully, in the future, it will get up to one quarter of the 1/2-cent tax."

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