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BOC lifts hiring freeze for public defenders office
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When Newton County adopted its budget of $47.71 million in July, an agreed upon six-month hiring freeze was included. For the first time since then, the Board of Commissioners has agreed to lift the freeze for one position due to special circumstances.

The hiring freeze was only to be exempted to public safety employees or by specific board approval.

Newton County Public Defender Anthony Carter asked County Manager Tom Garrett for permission to hire a paralegal/investigator after one of the county’s two had resigned.

“These two positions handle the intake for approximately 3,500 cases per year,” Carter said to Garrett in an email. “This includes initial jail visits, follow-up visits and all necessary documents needed to open a file. The two positions also support six attorneys with investigation of cases and trial preparation. In addition, at least one paralegal/investigator is assigned to court at least three days a week to help with paperwork and disposition of cases.”

The paralegal/investigator helps ensure speedy dispositions and ensure efficiency in processing. Without the proper efficiency, inmates can remain imprisoned longer than needed, costing the county $45 per day.

Garrett said the cost of not having the paralegal/investigator surpasses the savings of not paying someone in that position for 60 days. The freeze was put in the budget as a cost-savings measure throughout that two-month period.

“Any position that came open during the budget year would be held open for 60 days and that salary savings would be realized by the county,” Garrett said.

There have been about a dozen openings left unfilled due to the freeze.