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Humboldt County DA: Board of Supervisors not making public safety services a priority

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EUREKA- The Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office is in the spotlight after accusing the Humboldt County officials of not making public safety a priority.

The claims stem from a Yolo County District Attorney’s Office document that compares percentage ratios of public defenders to district attorneys in county offices across the state. According to that document, Humboldt County public defenders have a higher staffing ratio compared to other offices in the state, coming in at 86 percent compared to the state average of 60 percent. District Attorney Paul Gallegos said those numbers show his department is understaffed and under funded.

Gallegos also says a comparison of funding allocated by the Board of Supervisors to both departments over the past years shows that the District Attorney’s office is under funded as compared to the Public Defenders office. He says the District Attorney’s Office has seen a nearly 10 percent decrease in funding since 2009, while the Public Defenders Office has received a six percent increase. Those numbers have caused him to publicly question the supervisors’ commitment to public safety.

“The people in this office are working hard on behalf of the people in this community. We should be better funded than we are and the funding allocations from the general fund to me are as strong an indication as to what the priorities are,” Gallegos said.

Meanwhile, Humboldt County Board of Supervisors Chairman Rex Bohn says they are doing all they can to help support public safety. The supervisors recently approved their 2014-2015 budget, which was created with community input. Bohn said that over 50 percent of the budget is allocated to public safety, with the money being split between several departments, and that Gallegos' claims that the board is not committed to funding public safety services are not valid.

“I think the public safety of the citizens of Humboldt County is first and foremost,” Bohn said. “And I think we've shown that in the past by trying to fund as well as we can all of the departments all the way from probation, our jail, our sheriff, roads even roads, DHHS. These are all problems that we have to face to provide for public safety.”

Bohn said that all departments have taken at least a 10 percent cut in funding over the years due to budget constrictions, and that they are doing everything they can to aid public safety. That includes a sales tax measure that will be on the November ballot. If the measure passes, the revenue generated will be used for public safety and other needed county services.