Archive for Thursday, March 9, 2006

City council considers pay for public defender

Leavenworth attorney seeks $200 a month for work with municipal court defendants

March 9, 2006

The Leavenworth attorney, who's appointed to represent some Basehor Municipal Court defendants, asked council members this week to be paid for his work.

Roger Horsky is appointed by the municipal court judge to represent people who are facing the possibility of jail and who cannot afford to hire their own attorney.

Horsky recently submitted an $1,800 bill to the city for his work in 2005. That's at a rate of $150 a month.

This year, Horsky proposes that the city pay him $200 a month. The city pays its municipal court judge $250 a month.

Horsky told council members on Monday that Leavenworth pays its public defender about $1,000 a month, while Lansing will pay its defender $800 a month this year.

"The general rule of thumb, according to American Bar Association standards, is that at least five percent of the court budget should go to defense services," Horsky said. "The court has to appoint representation in some cases, especially with jail sentences looming."

He said it's not practical to try to collect money from people who are indigent -- people whose income level qualifies them for free legal representation in court.

"I don't feel comfortable suing somebody for those fees," he said. "And most of them are for $100 or $200. It's not feasible to do that."

City attorney John Thompson said he didn't believe the city could tack a surcharge onto indigent defendants' cases for attorneys fees.

"I don't think you can do it on a defendant-by-defendant basis," he said.

Traci Myracle, police and court clerk, said the city could pay Horsky on a per-defendant basis, rather than a flat fee.

"I think you need to be paid for your time," council president John Bonee said. "I just don't know what the best way to do that is."

Council members asked Thompson to return to them with options for paying Horsky.

In other action Monday night, the council:

  • Agreed to continue until 7 p.m. March 20 a public hearing on the U.S. Highway 24-40 sanitary sewer taxing district.
  • Approved, 4-0, purchase of computer equipment and lease of a copier for the police department. Council members approved buying three computer work stations, a server and software updates from Dell for $10,776 and leasing a Canon copier from Datamax for 60 months at $317 a month. The copier carries an option to buy for $1 at the end of five years or make a trade.
  • Approved, 3-2, with the mayor voting yes, an annexation agreement with Steve and Darla Miles for 92.7 acres southeast of 150th Street and U.S. Highway 24-40.

As part of the agreement, an 8.1-acre tract will be exempt from the city's transportation excise tax, as well as property in the 100-year floodplain and right of way for streets within proposed development on the property, known as Wolf Creek. Mike Hooper, a Miles representative, said the exemption for the 8.1 acres will be in place, only as long as Miles Excavating uses the property. "If it's replatted or split off, they'll pay the excise tax on it," he said. Bonee and council member Iris Dysart said they were not comfortable with parts of the agreement.

Dysart said she thought the excise tax should apply to more of the property. "That's costing the city $32,000," she said.

And Bonee said he agreed with waiving the tax on portions of the land. But added, "I just don't agree with the wording. I think it leaves the city too open, and I think it needs to be a little more clear."

Bonee and Dysart voted against the agreement, while council members Terry Thomas and Keith Sifford voted yes. The mayor broke the tie.

The council, on a 3-1 vote, with Dysart voting no, also approved final plat and construction documents for Wolf Creek Industrial Park. The industrial park, at U.S. Highway 24-40 and 150th Street, includes Miles Excavating offices and equipment lot. Dysart voted against the plat and construction documents.

  • Agreed, 4-0, to authorize the planning commission to schedule a public hearing on April 4 on the city's comprehensive plan.
  • Tabled, 3-1, with Sifford voting no, an amendment to the city's animal control laws outlining what birds legally can be kept in the city.
  • Approved, 4-0, final plat and construction documents for Tomahawk Valley, an 18.48-acre tract south of Creek Ridge, between 155th and 158th streets. The vacant property contains 55 single-family residential lots.
  • Approved, 4-0, final plat and construction documents for Falcon Lakes phase three, a 20.6-acre tract south of Falcon Lakes Drive along the Falcon Lakes golf course. The vacant tract will be developed into homes.
  • Approved, 4-0, to allow city staffers to apply to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to participate in training exercises. According to city clerk Mary Ann Mogle, FEMA will pay for the training, transportation and lodging in Maryland. The council will review each staff member's request to attend training, once FEMA approves inclusion in the training sessions.
  • Set a city council retreat for 8 a.m. to noon April 22 at city hall.
  • Met for 30 minutes with Thompson in executive session.

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