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DA says his budget is shrinking

Joshua Sebold
Staff Writer
3/2/2011

District Attorney (DA) David Hollister told the Plumas County Board of Supervisors his budget for the current fiscal year was $163,724 lighter compared to the previous year, with the county’s General Fund contribution and grant funding both shrinking.

The DA explained this led to the elimination of vehicles and on-call pay for his investigators, while more changes would be necessary in the next fiscal year.

Hollister added that the office couldn’t cut prosecutors because he and Deputy District Attorney Gary McGowan were already handling nearly 800 cases a year — each.

He explained that number would drop to 519 cases per prosecutor with the hiring of new Deputy DA Joel McComb from Alameda County, the office Hollister worked for before arriving in Plumas.

McComb will fill Hollister’s old job, meaning the office will have the same number of attorneys as before.

Essentially Hollister was arguing that he would be taking more of the courtroom workload than his predecessor.

Even sharing the workload in this way, he added, the prosecutors in his office would be handling over 2-1/2 times the cases that an attorney in Sacramento would take on.

“If we take the state staffing recommendations, our office should have 13 prosecutors and 10 support staff. Again, I’m not going to ask you for that but really that’s the number of cases that we’re working.”

The DA clarified that this wasn’t a direct comparison because when he worked in Oakland every case he tried involved the possibility of a life sentence, meaning he had fewer cases, but the crimes involved were much more serious compared to the rate of about one murder trial per year in Plumas.

On the flip side, he argued that people in Plumas County care more about small crimes like burglaries.

“Our cases are every bit as important to our citizens as down in Sacramento.”

Indian Valley Supervisor Robert Meacher responded that another way to look at Hollister’s case numbers was that Plumas had three times as many cases per citizen as Sacramento.

Meacher said budgeting for law enforcement was a delicate balance and statistics could be viewed in different ways.

He argued having more police officers led to more arrests “because there’s more people in the business doing it.”

“The more you prosecute the more you need to incarcerate. The more you incarcerate the more you need to probate.”

He contended that someone could then look at the resulting high crime statistics and conclude, “We need more cops.” This “starts the whole conveyor loading up again. So when have you protected yourself enough?”

Hollister agreed that Meacher had a point but argued that the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office wasn’t currently overstaffed.

“We’ve got four detectives and one supervisor. I want them out there working.”

“If people are slinging meth down by Quincy High School where my kid goes to school I want that guy off the street and that’s something that I think I’m happy to pay for, I think you’re happy to pay for. That’s a priority. Where we get into the nickel and dime stuff, quite frankly we’ve got no interest in that. I’ve got plenty of work. I am not going to bend over backwards to charge everything that I see.”

Hollister said the case numbers were also skewed by “some miscreants in this county who will pick up four, five and six cases a year.”

“They won’t be the cases of the century but they will continually do it. They’re driving under the influence, they’re under the influence of methamphetamine.”

Meacher asked if the California Highway Patrol was overburdening the DA’s office with overzealous enforcement on people driving under the influence of prescription medications.

Hollister played devil’s advocate, “I just charged a fourth-time DUI going down the canyon, she’s going about 70, cutting corners, she ends up hitting the embankment, ending up in one of the little reservoirs down there.

“If I’m coming up with my family, we’re dead. So that DUI, you know what? Go get her, go arrest her, get her off the roads.”


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