Dawson County’s representation at the state level increased last week with Mike Berg’s executive appointment to the governor’s Public Defender Standards Council.
Berg, 62, retired from Georgia Power in 2001 and is chairman of the Dawson County commission.
Gov. Sonny Perdue announced the executive appointments Friday, naming Berg to a board created about three years ago to give adequate council to people facing state criminal charges.
“Prior to the council, there was no process to the system, with outrageous fines and no legislation. The council gives a balance that is used across the state,” Berg said.
Berg became involved with the public defender standards council last year with an appointment by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle to a bipartisan committee to study the state’s public defender program.
"I am pleased that the governor has chosen Mike Berg for this important role on the Public Defender Standards Council,” said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle.
“He has been an effective public servant to the citizens of Dawson County for several years, and I am confident that he will prove to be a valuable asset to the Council. Mike was a key player last year in helping the Legislature look for improvements to the Indigent Defense program, and I am glad that he will be able to help implement reforms to the program going forward," Cagle said.
As a member of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, with seats on the association’s board of managers and executive committee, Berg will serve as the county commissioner representative on the governor’s council.
“There was a legislative recommendation to appoint at least one from ACCG, because we send 60 percent that runs the public defender program from the counties. Sending 60 percent in, we need some representation on the council,” Berg said.
Berg is one of 14 Georgians appointed to the council, primarily made up of attorneys.
The council meets once a month.
In recent months, Georgia’s Public Defender program has fallen under scrutiny amid funding shortfalls because of the Brian Nichols death penalty trial.
Nichols is accused of killing four people at the Fulton County Couthouse in 2005 in an attempt to escape a rape conviction.
The trial has been delayed numerous times. Nichols has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Dawson County has $300,000 in its budget for the local public defender program.
“Overall, it’s important for Dawson County to be recognized by the state and to have input,” Berg said.
E-mail Michele Hester at firstname.lastname@example.org.