The Riley County Attorney’s Office presented an odd request to the Board of County Commissioners Thursday

County Attorney Barry Wilkerson says the prolonged closure of trial courts during the pandemic created a large backlog of cases. While he says his office has made progress getting the most serious felony cases through the system, a backlog of other lower level cases still remain.

“We don’t usually come to the commission in February and ask for help, but this is something I think in the short term would be beneficial to us and also I believe it would be beneficial to the community and helping those who are victims and even people who are awaiting charges, to get their cases resolved,” he said.

Wilkerson asked the commission to approve a contract attorney who will work 20 to 24 hours per week for six months, as they try to tackle the backlog in cases. Commissioners unanimously approved the request, which comes with a fiscal impact estimated to be $63,000. 

Jury trials were paused for well over a year between 2020 and 2021, due to COVID-19 health restrictions. Wilkerson noted the transient nature of the community can make prosecution more difficult and expensive when cases are delayed.

“The longer you hold off filing, the worse it gets because then we have to bring witnesses back from other jurisdictions possibly if the case goes to trial. That, of course, costs money because we have to pay for lodging, meals and travel expenses,” he said.

Wilkerson says he has identified a willing qualified attorney who will work under his office’s purview at a rate of $90 per hour for no more than 700 hours. The contract is for six months, beginning March 1.