Jones Co. Budget Cuts Leave District Attorney Shorthanded

7:40 AM, Sep 13, 2013   |    comments
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Some budget cuts in Jones County left a hole in the county prosecutors' office.

The assistant district attorney, Keagan Waystack lost her job while on the job. 

It happened last month on the first day of jury selection of the Pamela murder trial.

That's because the Jones County commissioners cut about 60-percent of the district attorney's budget.

That's nearly $90,000.

They decided to use that money to supply equipment for the county's EMA officers and to avoid increasing the mileage rate. 

District attorney, Fred Bright, and Waystack say they were blindsided by the decision.

"It was not the time to be able to process any of it, or have any opportunity to go to anybody because the murder trial needed to be my number one priority," Waystack says.

Some county officials seemed just as confused about what that meant for the D.A.'s office. 

City administrator, Mike Underwood, says he "didn't know what was going to happen to the end result."

But commission chairman, Preston Hawkins, says he was fully aware of the outcome.

Commissioner Daylon Martin says, "I didn't even make the association and I apologize. From the standpoint that we just crippled the D.A.'s office, I don't think that was worth the savings."

Budget cuts were made across the board and some of the commissioners agreed that there had to be casualties.

But Bright calls the vote a setback: "I can't do that job myself. It's a two-person job."

Bright had two prosecutors working in Jones County. Waystack was paid by the county.

The other, Gregory Bushway, was paid mainly by the state.

But Bushway resigned after the commissioner's vote.

That's because they also cut money that went toward subsidizing his salary.

And when a state-paid employee leaves their job, there is a two-month hiring freeze.

Bright says that leaves him with over 300 cases to work on by himself: "You're setting me up for failure. I'm just being blunt about it."

The commissioners say they are considering reinstating the position for less pay for an entry level prosecutor to help Bright.

Bright is district attorney for the eight counties in the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit which includes Jones, Baldwin, Hancock, Putnam and Wilkinson. 

The Jones commissioners' vote does not affect staffing in the other counties.

Meanwhile, Waystack and Bushway are going into private practice.

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