SC Commission OKs extra funding for new ADA

Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Christian will get the extra funding he needs to hire a new Assistant District Attorney for Stephens County. Christian went before the Board of Commissioners Tuesday morning to ask for money to supplement a new ADA’s salary through the end of the year.

We know the Board has limited resources, but here’s our proposal. It’s got to be an experienced person. The total cost I’ve laid out for your consideration for the months of November, December and part of October is $12,738.24,” said Christian to board members.

Former ADA Rick Bridgeman retired at the end of September and Christian said the State is paying his salary through December. The extra money from the County will supplement the current ADA salary through the end of 2018.

Christian told the Board he does have a candidate in mind but he needs the $12,000 supplement as part of the package to attract that candidate to the position so the new ADA can start before the end of the year.

Christian noted it is essential that the new ADA is not right out of law school, but have extensive experience because of the County’s growing crime rate.

The drug cases have escalated and the level of crime is increasing. November 1st we have a two-defendant murder cases. We had a young man shot and killed; gang related. And we had another young man shot three times in a drive-by shooting and survived,” he said.

Christian said because of the increase in gang violence and drug trafficking the FBI has set up operations in Toccoa-Stephens County and is working with local law enforcement, ARDEO, and the GBI to bust gang related violence and drug trafficking in Stephens County.

The lack of an experienced ADA in Stephens County has already pushed a couple of big trials back.

The Hill/McElveen murder trial, which was to have taken place in September, has now been pushed back to November.

After hearing from the District Attorney, Commissioner Debbie Whitlock said the County is committed to helping local law enforcement and the DA’s office do its job effectively.

“We have given money and resources to the Clerk’s office to handle this increase, to the Magistrate and to the Sheriff’s department. And after everything is done the DA office is the office that has to prosecute these cases and work on these cases to present them. Now, we have to give them the resources to meet the need,” said Whitlock.

Commissioner Dennis Bell agreed and noted the importance of making sure the County does whatever it can to support the efforts of the efforts of the District Attorney’s office.

We want to do our part and we need to help you as much we can. Without this funding you’re not going to be able to do the job you need to do. Working in law enforcement myself I see how the District Attorneys around this area don’t get the funding they need. I’m all for helping you any way we can,” Bell said.

During their regular meeting, the Board voted unanimously to supplement the ADA salary through the end of December.

Christian said the state will pick up the new ADA’s salary increase in January.