County DA Seeks More Staff As Workload Swells
Published: August 19th, 2022
By: Shawn Magrath

County DA seeks more staff as workload swells Chenango County District Attorney Michael Ferrarese is seeking county officials' approval to add staff to his office, making the case that changes in state requirements over the years has significantly increased his staff's workload and burned his overtime budget.

CHENANGO COUNTY – Citing a mounting workload touched off by new state mandates, the Chenango County District Attorney’s Office is seeking the okay of county officials to grow its staff.

Chenango County DA Michael Ferrarese says additional man hours are needed to handle state requirements generated by New York’s 2020 implementation of the “Discovery Law.” The law mandates prosecutors to immediately share information with the defendant, including witness statements, 911 recordings, and names and contact information for any person with relevant information.

While proponents argue that New York’s recent changes to Discovery aligns the state’s laws with the majority of other states and makes the system fairer, it’s placed a tremendous burden on district attorneys’ offices statewide. Ferrarese’s office has been no exception, typically paying employees overtime to work before business hours and on weekends in order to process Discovery requirements on time.

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Every office in all 62 counties has needed to increase staff in order to meet their mandates, said Ferrarese, noting that the state may have acted “in haste” when the law passed the legislature. Requirements were set without additional funding for district attorneys’ offices to fulfill requirements, putting an exponential onus on the DA.

Moreover, Ferrarese points to an increase in crime that’s reminiscent of pre-COVID numbers. His office handled an average 140 indictments per year prior to the pandemic, but only 116 indictments in 2021. This year, however, more than 60 indictments were filed through June and his office is on track to see 120-140 by year’s end.

“It is very clear across the state that violent crime has gone up exponentially, including in upstate New York. We’re seeing that even in our office.”

To deal with new requirements, the DA’s office is seeking county approval to change a part-time clerk position into a full-time secretary position, as well as add a new district attorney. The secretary would need local taxpayer dollars for salary and fringe benefits. The ADA position, on the other hand, would be funded by an anticipated $156,000 state grant – money Ferrarese says is a priority to obtain. 

County officials maintain that grant funded positions are contingent on receiving grant funds, meaning if the grant ever goes away, then so too would the position

With changes in staffing, the DA’s office aims to eliminate its overtime budget.

The Chenango County Safety and Rules Committee approved the DA’s requests at its monthly meeting Wednesday. The appeal will now go to the county’s personnel committee before being sent to the county board of supervisors for a final stamp of approval.