MAYVILLE – Chautauqua County Legislator Dave Wilfong (R) and District Attorney Patrick Swanson (D) defended their stances on Swanson’s past budget allocations.
In an interview with WNYNewsNow Thursday morning, Wilfong said he spoke at Wednesday evening’s County Legislature meeting about how Swanson used money in 2018 towards other areas within his office rather than hiring another prosecutor, which is what Wilfong thought was the original intent.
“To be honest with you, I want people to understand that the taxpayers already paid for one prosecutor and then, believe it or not, in the 2019 budget, there’s more money for another prosecutor,” Wilfong said. “I want people to keep track of what the District Attorney is up to and make sure he uses the money the way he was meant to because he’s an elected official.”
“We provide him with the money. We can’t dictate what that funding goes for, but last year, we provided money for that. I want people to know that money was in the budget last year, and he used it for incentives for his office staff, and I think that was totally wrong.”
Swanson told WNYNewsNow that he’d be surprised if people were still concerned that he wouldn’t use the money towards another prosecutor.
“I’d be surprised, first, that they’re concerned about that because I think everyone is aware that my priority has always been, since taking office, to increase the number of attorneys,” Swanson said. “If I’m given the financial means to do that, that will be my number one choice every time.”
“It’d be very easy to assuage that concern and indicate that this is a priority.”
Wilfong said that he’ll let people draw their own conclusions. He did, however, say he’s concerned as the County gave an increase in Swanson’s budget last year with the intent of Swanson hiring another prosecutor.
“My concern is we paid for a prosecutor that we never got,” Wilfong said. “The people of Chautauqua County. Not my money, our money. We spent that money in good faith, then all of a sudden, he says, ‘Well, I’m gonna use it another way,’ and he has every right to do that.”
“But then, all year, he has come to us and said, ‘I need more prosecutors. The opioid epidemic is getting larger and larger.’ Why didn’t he use the money last year that we gave him?”
Swanson stated how, due to various mandatory expenditures, his office was unable to hire an additional prosecutor as initially planned.
The District Attorney said, once a new prosecutor is hired effective Jan. 1, his office will have 11 prosecutors. He said, however, that his office will still need more.
“Given the population in this county and the crime rate we’ve experienced, that’s (11 prosecutors) still not enough,” Swanson said. “It’s not a huge cost to the county when you look at the fact we have a $250 million budget.”
“Moving forward, my hope is to utilize that money that they approved and get myself a qualified prosecutor and continue to make that argument over the next few years that we need the assistance to prosecute the cases that are currently in our office.”
Swanson said that an unwritten rule for district attorneys throughout New York State is to have a prosecutor per 10,000 people. When compounding that with the crime rate, he said an ideal number is to have 14 or 15 prosecutors for Chautauqua County.