County Hires Court’s Just Laid Off Criminal Defense Conflict Contract Officer

(June 4) The county of San Bernardino this week moved to hire the Superior Court staff member who oversees the administration of the county courts’ conflict indigent defense representation, just as the position he held was eliminated by the court system itself.
In San Bernardino County, indigent defense is handled by the public defender’s office. In some criminal cases, however, a conflict between defendants charged in the same case crops up in which the defense of one or both asserts the other defendant is responsible for the act or acts alleged in the criminal complaint. The defense of one or the other of these defendants is then assigned to a criminal defense conflict attorney.
San Bernardino County currently contracts with a single law firm, Earl Carter & Associates, to handle indigent defense adult criminal cases in which the public defender’s office declares a conflict. The Carter firm’s contract is budgeted in the county’s indigent defense budget unit. Beginning in 2004, the administration of the criminal defense conflict contracts were handled by the courts. Recently, the courts informed county chief executive officer Greg Devereaux that they are going to end their administration of the criminal defense conflict contract and return that responsibility to the county.  The courts had for the last several years employed Craig Congdon as the contract administrator.
According to Gary McBride, the county’s chief financial officer, the county offered to pick up Congdon’s contract for the indigent defense conflict contract administration.
“Given the extended period of time that the courts have administered these contracts for indigent defense, finance and administration has no staff with the needed experience to take on this task,” McBride said. “Further, hiring the current contract administrator will allow for a smooth transition of the oversight from the courts to the county and will maintain the good working relationships with the affected judges.”
Congdon’s contract calls for a compensation package of $111,811 per year, consisting of a salary of $75,210 and benefits of $36,601.

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