Sunday, July 6, 2014
As Callaway County transitions from a Class 1 to a Class 2 county, there’s one stipulation voters will need to agree on come August.
Voters will decide if the prosecuting attorney’s position remains full time. Missouri statutes mandates the prosecuting attorney is a part-time employee in Class 2 counties, unless the residents vote otherwise. Callaway County Presiding Commissioner Gary Jungermann said public vote is the only way to ensure the prosecuting attorney remains full time.
In 2010, House Bill 1806 increased the total assessed value requirements for counties, adjusting Class 1 total assessed value from $600 million to $900 million. According to Western District Commissioner Doc Kritzer, Callaway County falls short of that with $773.77 million, a number calculated in September 2013.
Jungermann said Callaway will officially become a Class 2 county on Jan. 1, 2017. A major revenue source — Jungermann gave the example of something of a similar size to the Ameren nuclear reactor — would have to be established before then for Callaway to have a chance at remaining at Class 1.
Callaway County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Wilson said the county classification system mandates how county governments function. He added this is an “odd situation unique to Callaway” when compared to other county populations and classification.
Reflecting on Callaway’s criminal statistics, Wilson said he “cannot imagine” his position as part time.
U.S. Census Bureau estimates Callaway County’s 2013 population at 44,359. Wilson said of the Missouri counties with a similar number of people, only one — Howell County with a population of 40,393 — operates with a part-time prosecuting attorney.
Wilson added that Saline County, which has a Census Bureau estimated population of 23,252, is the only one of the seven Class 2 counties with a part-time prosecuting attorney.
Callaway was last a Class 2 county in 2002, Wilson said, and in that year, the prosecuting attorney’s office handled more than 400 felony cases. Last year, Wilson oversaw more than 600 felony charges and he anticipates about 650-700 by the end of 2014.
“Clearly that’s not going down,” Wilson said.
Misdemeanors have seen a dramatic increase from 2002 to 2013 with 1,600 cases and 3,600, respectively.
Wilson said he is of the belief that prosecuting attorney is a career position, an idea which gained increasing support in the legal world since the 1960s. Part-time prosecuting attorneys, he added, are allowed to hold a private practice, which Wilson felt could cause conflict-of-interest situations.
With the classification transition, Callaway could have faced the choice between hiring a coroner or continuing work with the Medical Examiner of Boone, Callaway and Greene Counties.
The county will avoid that due to a 1974 vote in which Callawegians opted for a medical examiner. Wilson said that’s something to be “fortunate” for because medical examiner’s findings are scientifically based.
Wilson said other changes would include minimal funding adjustments to various departments.
Denise Hubbard, Callaway County Clerk, said that if the measure does not pass, it could be put on the ballot again.
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