Juneau District Attorney David Brower told The Pilot this week he will not attend the town meeting set for February 21 in Petersburg, but that Deputy Attorney General Richard Svobodny would attend.
In a phone interview, Brower said, “he would like to be there,” but would be on leave at the time of the scheduled meeting.
He added that he did write Police Chief Jim Agner a letter regarding the 38% case dismissal rate. Agner confirmed receipt of the five page letter on Wednesday and said he had not had time to read it.
When asked if a solution to the Petersburg problem would be hiring more people in his Juneau office Brower replied, “It would always be good to have more people, but it would not be a solution.”
When asked if anyone from his office would attend the meeting in his absence, Brower said no, it would be Richard Svobodny who would be present.
Chief Agner reiterated his ongoing complaints about lack of service from Brower’s office in Juneau. “The dismissal rate (of Petersburg cases) is a symptom of the problem which is the lack of service. We don’t communicate. We don’t even know when the D.A. is in town,” said Agner.
“The judge is in town 30-40 days a year, the public defender is here 28-30 days a year and the district attorney is here 8-11 days per year,” said Chief Agner.
When asked if other police departments were having similar issues with the D.A. Agner said, “Yes, but they’re living with it.”
Agner added that it might make more sense to add one more person to the Ketchikan D.A.’s office and move the Petersburg, Wrangell and Kake case-load to the Ketchikan District Attorney’s office.
“I don’t want to run the D.A.’s office,” said Agner, “I just want them to do their job.”
In the mayor’s invitation letter to Governor Parnell, the mayor cited lack of support by the D.A., related to, “the dismissal of a high number of charges, extraordinary plea bargains and in all honesty, a seemingly lack of concern on the part of the District Attorney’s office.”
The mayor’s letter was distributed to State Senators Bert Stedman, Hollis French and Dennis Egan, Representatives Beth Kerttula and Peggy Wilson, Svobodny, Brower, city council members and news representatives in Petersburg.
Along with the letters were signatures from 95 Petersburg residents who supported the mayor’s letter.
The mayor asked for representatives from the Governor’s office to attend the Petersburg Town Hall meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, February 21which will be held in conjunction with the city council meeting that evening.
The mayor noted, “We encourage your office to have a representative present at the meeting to hear directly from some of your constituents on their feelings about the lack of service received by this community.”
Local attorney John Hoag told the city council on Feb. 1 that the D.A.’s office is understaffed and grossly underfunded and thus pressure needs to be applied now, during the legislative session to increase funding for the office in next year’s state budget.