Lohra Miller

Additional staff is coming to bail out the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office.

On Tuesday, the Salt Lake County Council voted to fund 16 new full-time employees, including four new prosecutors.

But it's not enough staff to reduce the "overwhelming caseload" prosecutors now face.

"The staffing I've requested is the bare minimum to allow us to keep the status quo," Salt Lake County District Attorney Lohra Miller said. "It's enough to tread water."

Miller convinced the council to keep her afloat through privately lobbying behind closed doors and publicly blasting county officials on Monday to make law enforcement a priority for dollars.

The "political grandstand" angered Democrats on the council, who voted against Miller's budget increase requests. All five Republicans backed the Republican district attorney's request.

"Who was your audience yesterday morning and do you feel we're not listening, or are you trying to take the mayor to the woodshed?" said County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson. "What I'm interested in is a dialogue, and not a grandstand."

Miller made the public plea after Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon included no new prosecutors in his proposed budget to the council.

The district attorney said she needed the additional staff to reduce overwhelming caseloads that are driving down morale. Miller also said criminals "are not being held accountable" for their crimes.

Felony prosecutors at the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office are assigned about 215 cases per year, while the national average is about 150 felony cases per prosecutor, according to the American Bar Association.

Miller had asked for 40 new staffers, including nine prosecutors, for a $3 million budget increase. In the end, she got about half of that — $1.3 million.

In total, the proposed district attorney's budget will pay for four new prosecutors, five secretaries, two paralegals, a domestic violence warrant coordinator, and new laptops and cell phones for prosecutors.

And the council said it was open to considering funding two additional positions — a community prosecution coordinator and a public information officer — before the budget closes.

"Our public deserves the best possible legal representation," Miller said. "I'm trying to do that for our entire community."

Mayor Peter Corroon said Monday he understands Miller's plight, but he has to balance the budget and avoid a tax increase.

The council will avoid a tax increase, but County Councilman Joe Hatch said he's not sure what budgets will get cut back since the council beefed up Miller's request.

"For us it's more of if we're going to fund your program in full, we'd probably have to do a tax increase, or we'd have to completely eliminate or cut a worthy government function somewhere else," Hatch said. "Where are we supposed to cut?"


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