MENOMINEE — The hire of a temporary contract lawyer to assist the Menominee County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office was approved Tuesday by the county board.

The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office currently has a backlog of more than 500 cases that are yet to be addressed. To help with the workload, Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey Rogg requested that the county hire a contract lawyer to work part-time specifically on the backlog of case files for the time being.

The request comes from a lack of staffing in his office, which currently has two vacant positions. Rogg said the position of Chief Prosecuting Attorney currently has no candidate but the position of Assistant Prosecuting Attorney will likely be filled in August.

Rogg asked the county to allow $20,000 be used to hire a temporary contract lawyer.

Menominee County Administrator Jason Carviou went over how such a hire would impact the county’s budget. Because there are two positions in the Prosecutor’s Office that are budgeted for and not filled, there is a budget surplus that can be drawn from. About half of the $20,000 could be paid with this surplus. However, the other half would need to be taken from the general fund.

Rogg said he had already discussed the position with the attorney he intends to hire: Carl Downing, the former Prosecuting Attorney for Dickinson County.

“He was here this morning and we spent some time going over the projected work, he already took some police files with him in anticipation of you approving this item, in whatever amount,” Rogg said. 

Rogg described Downing as a “grizzled veteran” who worked as the Prosecuting Attorney for Dickinson for 16 years, until his retirement. However, he still works with both Dickinson and Delta counties part-time.

Rogg said Downing has agreed to help Menominee County and can begin work immediately. Rogg had suggested paying $75/ hour for Downing’s work.

“I know this may sound high to you, but he is a professional with a great deal of experience. He’s actually been a lawyer five years longer than I have. I have 26 years experience and he has 31 years,” Rogg said. “For a point of reference: We pay out court-appointed attorneys $100/ hour. So, I don’t think it’s out of line out at all.”

Downing would not work a full 40 hours a week. Rogg said he would be working between 10-20 hours a week, give or take as he will continue to work for Dickinson and Delta counties. He would also be working on the cases remotely to offset some of his commuting time.

“He’s a responsible man and he will use the time and money responsibly, I’m confident he’ll do a great job for us,” Rogg said.

Commissioner Steven Gromala asked if the $20,000 budgeted for this position would need to be spent by the end of the year or if the county could carry it over to the next fiscal year.

Carviou said the Menominee County could draw up the contract to be for either until the end of the year and they could re-address the contract at that time, or they could write it for a 266 hours of work.

Piche said if Downing worked two full eight hours a week, the budget could cover 16 weeks.

Commissioner Larry Schei asked Rogg if the other staff at the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office would be able to handle the extra workload they would receive after Downing begins to work on the backlog of cases.

Rogg said his staff would need to balance out their workload to accommodate the extra files and he has discussed the possibility of hiring a temporary office employee to help around the office. If an extra person was hired, Rogg said it would be a part-time position strictly to answer phone calls and provide extra “man-power.”

The Menominee County Board voted unanimously in favor of allowing Rogg to hire a temporary part-time contract employee.

In other business: 

■ Nancy Douglas gave a presentation with artist Rusty Wolfe about three fish sculptures which will be built around Marinette and Menominee areas. Douglas said she expects they will draw in tourism and stimulate economic development for the county.

■ The board approved Resolutions 2019-14: The Great Lakes Restoration and 2019-15: Medicare Prescription Drug Bill unanimously, each.

■ The board approved of an expansion for the Friend of the Court offices.

■ Resolution 2019-2: Land Division & Combination Procedures has been tabled indefinitely.