Comparing 2010 to 2014, the DA's office’s workload went down – way down – by slightly more than 33 percent!
Raul Torrez Has it Backwards on Budget, Workload
COLUMN BY DAN KLEIN
“Hey boss, I need a raise. Never mind that I am only doing 67 percent of the work I used to do.”
Not if you’re Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez. He recently testified before a legislative committee that “crime is out of control in Bernalillo County” and he needs millions more to get a handle on it.
I agree that crime is out of control, but throwing money at it isn’t the answer. Getting the DA’s office’s attorneys to do the work they used to do is the answer.
Let me give you some numbers to try to explain the unexplainable.
In 2008, the DA’s office prosecuted 7,135 DWI cases. In 2015, that number dropped to 2,587. That’s 4,548 fewer prosecutions than in 2008 – a 63 percent reduction in work!
The 2010, the DA’s annual report showed a budget of $16 million. That year, with that budget, the office handled a total of 29,365 cases (mostly felonies) with a staff of 297 attorneys and support personnel.
In 2014, the DA’s annual report showed that the office handled 19,532 cases with a budget of $18,123,800. That year, the office had a staff of 300 attorneys and support personnel.
Comparing 2010 to 2014, the office’s workload went down – way down – by slightly more than 33 percent! During the same period, the office’s budget went up by $2 million. They kept the same number of attorneys and support staff.
What has the DA’s office been doing the past two years? Who knows? The past DA, Kari Brandenburg, didn’t compile annual reports for 2015 or 2016. Unless Torrez now does a public audit, there is no way to know how much or how little work the DA’s office did during the past 24 months.
News media outlets have reported that the number of cases and arrests made by the Albuquerque Police Department for 2015 and 2016 continued to spiral downward. Why is Torrez asking for more money if his office has dramatically smaller workload?
DA spokesman Adolfo Mendez told me that the office’s current budget is $18.7 million. That’s for 298 attorneys and support staff. But the office currently has 23 vacancies that must remain vacant because of the budget, Mendez said.
How is it that with thousands of fewer cases, a greater budget and the same staff numbers, there is a crisis at the DA’s office – a crisis that only more money will solve?
How is it that the budget is $2 million higher, the staff is the same size, but the DA can’t fill 23 positions because of the budget? Where did Torrez coming up with a $25 million budget figure to “optimize” the office’s effectiveness?
This isn’t Torrez’s fault, but he cannot ignore the disconnect either. Torrez or the Office of the State Auditor must investigate the office’s spending and workload for 2015 and 2016 and tell the public what the hell was going on. Why were there no annual reports for 2015 and 2016? Why are they doing less with more money and yet can’t fill the same number of positions?
Money won’t solve the problems at the DA’s office. It was caused by mismanagement and incorrectly interpreting orders from the New Mexico Supreme Court. The cure is smart management, accountability and having the attorneys do the work they used to do.
Torrez should be figuring out why the office is doing far less with more money, instead of asking for more.
If you asked your boss for a raise while doing 30 percent less work, you’d deservedly get a swift kick in the ass out the door. We, the taxpayers, are Torrez’s bosses, and all I can say is, Raul, do a public audit, and fix your office with the money you have.
Dan Klein is a retired Albuquerque police sergeant. Reach him through Facebook.