SAN ANGELO, TX – Tom Green County Commissioners are set to accept a $2.2 million dollar grant to create the Concho Valley Public Defender Office replacing the way defendants are assigned court-appointed attorneys in the Concho Valley.
According to information from County Judge Steve Floyd's office, the Court has four items on the agenda Tuesday concerning the creation of the new public defenders office:
1. Consider accepting the Texas Indigent Defense Commission Improvement Grant award of $2,276,676 to create the Concho Valley Public Defender office.
2. Consider approving Interlocal Agreements between the participating counties and Tom Green County for the office.
3. Consider appointing a member of the Commissioners Court to serve on the Oversight Board for the office.
4. Consider appointments of Tip Hargrove and Dr. Brenda Norton to serve on the Oversight Board.
As we reported earlier, the court on March 30, 2021 approved a resolution to apply for a Texas Indigent Defense Commission (TIDC) Improvement Grant to partially fund what will be the Concho Valley Public Defender's Office.
The purpose for creating a Public Defender's Office is to reduce the cost of providing attorneys for defendants who cannot afford an attorney. Currently the seven county region including Tom Green, Coke, Concho, Irion, Runnels, Schleicher and Sterling counties spends about $2.4 million each year on indigent defense.
Under the Concho Valley Public Defender's Office officials report an estimated savings of $1.2 million each year because of the grant from the TIDC.
The Concho Valley Public Defender's Office will have a staff of 23 including 15 attorneys; a Chief Defender, eight felony defenders, four misdemeanor defenders, a juvenile defender and an appellate/research defender.
The Chief Defender's salary is proposed at $180,000 per year with felony defenders making $80,008 per year and misdemeanor defenders at $75,873.
Other members of the Defender's office will include case workers, investigators and office staff.
Tom Green County Auditor Nathan Cradduck told the court that in addition to saving money, there are fewer private practice attorneys in San Angelo to participate in the assigned councel arrangement where attorneys are appointed and paid by the court on a rotating case-by-case basis.
Cradduck said there are two types of TIDC grants; the standard grant for counties with over 100,000 population and a rural regional sustainability grant for counties with under 100,000 population.
Even though Tom Green County has over 100,000 residents, Cradduck said the county applied for the rural regional sustainability grant which pays 80% of the costs the first year and 66% of the cost after the first year.
Cradduck said the District Judges approve of the plan and most of the surrounding counties are on board as well.
The Concho Valley Public Defender's Office program could begin operating in October.
Cradduck said the application would include funds to renovate office space the county already has for the office. The Public Defender's Office would be supervised by a nine member Defender Board which would include one representative from each county plus two community members.
The Commissioners Court meets at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday morning in the Commissioners Court meeting room on the second floor of the Keyes Building downtown. The meeting is open to the public.