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DA plans to add fourth attorney in Dawson
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Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh plans to add a fourth attorney to cover the court caseload in Dawson County.

"We've long needed a fourth [assistant district attorney] and this is a good way to put the fourth attorney over here while saving Dawson County a good deal of money," he said. "It's a good deal for Dawson County, and it gives me the personnel I need to effectively handle criminal cases in Dawson County."

In a presentation to the Dawson County Board of Commissioners last week, Darragh said while the new assistant district attorney is a state-funded position, he is asking for a $5,000 supplement from the county "to have retention of my attorneys."

"The state's pay scale starts a brand new lawyer out of law school at $43,000, plus a little bit of change," he said. "It's just not enough. I've been able to start attorneys at my office for several years at least at $50,000, either at county pay or at state pay with supplements."

Darragh named three attorneys that had left his office in recent years to take significantly higher paid positions.

"One of my ADAs left for $21,000 more. Another left for $18,000 more immediately and $12,000 more after that in a year to go to work for the federal government," he said. "A third one left for about a 40 percent raise to go to a local firm in Gainesville.

"He showed himself to be an excellent attorney and they were willing to pay him what he's worth."

The state recently awarded 16 new ADAs across Georgia, including one to Northeastern Judicial Circuit, which includes Dawson and Hall counties.

"I decided to place this new state paid position not in Hall County, but in Dawson County, state paid with county supplement in Dawson County," Darragh said.

The position is intended to be a juvenile court ADA in response to the increased caseload brought about earlier this year when the legislator sent children in need of services cases to be handled through the state's district attorney offices.

"I had to kind of modify things when they put this on us to where we handle them up to a certain point, but then they had to be given over to somebody else to go after a petition being filed," Darragh said. "Now we can do all of that process, and that was part of the reason they were providing the new attorneys across the state."

According to Darragh, there have been times, especially in the last few years, when he had to move his three ADAs around to cover the caseload of four attorneys.

"We sometimes had to move other people over here for short periods of time to make sure those needs would be covered. Now with this new state paid position, it's going to be a much better spot," he said.

Once the commission votes to unfreeze the position and grant the $5,000 supplement, Darragh said the county's fourth ADA would start immediately.

The board is set to vote on the matter during Thursday's 6 p.m. meeting.