The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

April 18, 2014

Ashtabula County owes cities money for public defender costs

JEFFERSON — What appears to be an oversight, is going to be costly for the county.

Ashtabula County Administrator Janet Discher told commissioners, Thursday, the county owes the City of Ashtabula, Conneaut and Geneva a combined amount of about $66,000 for a portion of their contracts with the Ashtabula County Public Defender’s Office.

Each municipality has a contract with the Public Defender’s Office each year. The county also has a separate contract with the Public Defender’s Office.

The Public Defender’s Office submits claims to the county for services and the county processes each claim and receives a reimbursement from the state for a percentage of each approved claim, Discher said.

The state can only reimburse the county, even though the cities have separate contracts. The county must request the reimbursement on behalf of the cities, Discher said.

Up until about 2007 or 2008, the county had been reimbursing the municipalities for a portion of their public defender costs, but at some point, the reimbursements stopped, Discher said.

“I’m guessing it was a change in personnel when it stopped,” she said.

Now the county is in arrears for five years with the municipalities and has to pay them a lump sum to get caught up, she said.

Discher said the county owes both Geneva and Conneaut about $19,000 each and owes Ashtabula about $28,000.

Once the county is caught up, it will begin paying the reimbursements to the municipalities on a yearly basis.

“We want to pay the cities what we owe them and proceed from there,” she said.

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