Editorial: Wasting Tax Money On The Courthouse Yeti

Photograph ©Chris Rogers

On Thursday of this week, Chief Public Defender Paul Steff and part-time public defense attorney John Havey will be meeting with County Commissioners to discuss the creation of a new position within their office. The non-union “Chief Trial Counsel” spot would give Havey a job description which reads eerily similar to what one might already expect for “Chief Public Defender.”

Paul Steff has become something of a Courthouse Yeti, a being whose existence is suggested but otherwise unrecognized by consensus. So rare are reported Steff sightings, that the possibility of Beaver County actually having a Chief Public Defender is now popularly regarded as highly unlikely.

It would all be laughable if it didn’t come at the expense of taxpayers, or if the lives of indigent defendants weren’t hanging in the balance.

A Right-to-Know request filed by the Beaver Countian last week for Paul Steff’s time sheets revealed a purported record of near perfect attendance this year. But his employees privately say entire weeks go by where they don’t see him at all, and they’ve had to meet at his private practice to discuss problems with his public office.

Prosecutors in the District Attorney’s Office point to Steff’s absence as a cause of concern, and say his department has been so poorly managed they fear it could lead to a rash of cases being overturned on appeal, resulting in costly relitigation.

Beaver County Judges are regularly heard berating defense attorneys in open court about problems with the Public Defender’s Office. But like the County Commissioners, they too have seemed unwilling to take on the Courthouse Yeti.

With a budget in dire straits due to cuts in state funding and with prospective layoffs looming, Beaver County can no longer afford to pay people who don’t do their jobs — And it certainly can’t afford to create near duplicate positions to pick up the slack.

Make no mistake, the Public Defender’s Office is indeed underfunded. Although some assistant public defenders are regularly working overtime without pay to do right by their indigent clients, it’s likely only a matter of time before the county faces an expensive lawsuit lodged by the ACLU, or similar entity, alleging grossly inadequate and unconstitutional representation. But hiring someone to do a job not being done by the head of their department is no solution, and will only compound the problem.

It’s time for the County Commissioners to stop wasting tax dollars on the Courthouse Yeti — Make Chief Public Defender Paul Steff’s notable absence from the courthouse official.

 

8 comments

  1. Great job John Paul!
    We are running out of defense attorneys in Beaver County. Time to clean house. I totally agree that we cannot afford to pay people who do not do their jobs!!!

    (0)
  2. i’m sure commissioners will deal with this problem by not dealing with this problem

    (0)
  3. They will deal with it by throwing more money at it. Controller Rossi is advised by his solicitor “money for nothin” Torrence. Maybe Al will get jealous because someone else is making easy money milking the taxpayers and he didn’t think of it first.

    We can just borrow more money right??????????????????

    (0)
  4. I know nothing about the courthouse. But it seems to be a culture of its own. Thanks for informing the public about things that go on there, or don’t, and doing it in a fair, professional way.

    (0)
  5. I don’t understand how Beaver County can justify creating a new position, plus a (large) salary and benifit package for some one to do a job that should already be done by the person who has this job, while crying about budget shortfalls and layoffs within the offices on aging, children and youth offices. Wait, I know, they will blame it on the unions, since I read where this will be a “non-union” position.

    (0)
  6. They thought nobody would ever find out and we wouldn’t have if not for the Beaver Countian!

    (0)
  7. beavercountywatch

    This is crazy, let’s create a special position for convicted John Havey. I find it disgusting that he even allowed to practice law again and be a public defense attorney. Shame on Beaver County!

    (0)
  8. beavercountywatch

    correction “convicted felon”

    (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>