Contra Costa County District Attorney Robert Kochly proposed a plan during an emergency public safety meeting in Martinez today that will enable his office to continue to prosecute misdemeanor crimes, at least for the next few months. Kochly announced last week in a letter sent to the Contra Costa Police Chiefs’ Association that as of May 4 his office would no longer review or prosecute some types of misdemeanor crimes as well as low-level felony drug possession cases.The district attorney’s office was prepared to lay off six temporary prosecutors effective Thursday and 11 more at the end of December in order to absorb $1.9 million in cuts approved by the Board of Supervisors in March, according to Kochly.However, Kochly said today that three fixed-term attorneys resigned this week, which could allow him to keep the six contract attorneys on the staff until the end of the year at an almost neutral cost.Contract attorneys are hired on a temporary contract and don’t receive benefits while fixed-term attorneys do. Kochly also told supervisors he would take a 10 percent pay cut for the next year to off-set the rest of the cost of keeping the six contract employees on the staff.”This will buy us some time without incurring any further cost, Kochly said.The board unanimously approved the plan and referred the matter to the public safety committee. The committee is now tasked with coming up with a long-term solution to present to the board in 120 days.Supervisor Federal Glover had threatened Monday to send a letter to state Attorney General Jerry Brown asking his office to review the performance and management of the district attorney’s office.Glover ripped up the letter at the meeting today and said he was rescinding his request. Other supervisors thanked Kochly for his leadership.But several prosecutors were not as enthusiastic about the temporary plan. “I don’t think this jury-rigged plan we have in place now is going to work,” Barry Grove, president of the Deputy District Attorney’s Association, told the supervisors.He said that attorneys who have been notified that they will be laid off at the end of the year have already started looking for new jobs and would not stay until the end of the year. If they leave, the district attorney’s office, which is already under-staffed, will not have enough attorneys to prosecute crime in the county.According to Kochly, the district attorney’s office reviews about 22,000 misdemeanor cases each year and filed charges in 11,000 of those cases.Grove said the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office is one of the least funded district attorney’s offices in the state and has the lowest paid prosecutors. He said the county needed to make public safety a priority. Contra Costa County Sheriff Warren Rupf told supervisors that the county has “failed public safety.”Supervisors today did not address budgetary problems in the sheriff’s office, which has also been asked to absorb major cuts.The sheriff’s office has laid off 25 deputy sheriffs and will now only have three patrol cars on weekday graveyard shifts and four patrol cars on weekend graveyard shifts to respond to calls throughout the entire county, according to Jim Bickert, president of the Contra Costa Deputy Sheriff’s Association.”We’re going to be responding to priority one calls only,” Bickert said.He said response times will increase drastically and people “probably shouldn’t take it for granted that they’re going to be rescued in a timely manner.”
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