Aberdeen Council agrees to pay more for public defender costs

The Aberdeen City Council agreed to pay an extra $8,000 on its contract with public defender John Gibson, increasing the monthly amount to $7,792 through Aug. 31.

Gibson had asked for an extra $16,000 through the life of the contract, but agreed to compromise at the lower amount in discussions with the Aberdeen Finance Committee Wednesday night. The council last boosted the amount given to Gibson by $1,000 a month in September of last year.

City Attorney Eric Nelson said that the city is having a difficult time figuring out the real market value of its public defense contract. Nelson noted that the state Supreme Court adopted new caseload limits for public defenders and the new standards say that public defenders should not handle more than 400 total misdemeanor cases or 300 cases if a “weighted” system is in place like in Aberdeen. A weighted system counts crimes such as possession of drug paraphernalia, prostitution or causing public disturbance as just a third of a case because the issues are typically not all that complicated.

Nelson said he figures the city is paying Gibson about $185 per case at this point.

As a comparison, he says Grays Harbor County is paying $250 per case.

Gibson and Nelson said they’ll both evaluate how things are working out and come back with more recommendations on if the contracted amount needs to go higher in the months to come.