Detroit — No Wayne County prosecutors showed up for traffic court cases in 36th District Court in Detroit on Monday — the latest salvo in the escalating budget battle between Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano.
Serious traffic offenses, including drunken driving and suspended drivers licenses, were either dismissed or adjourned, said Chief 36th District Court Judge Kenneth King. Some of the cases were adjourned or dismissed based on the stage of the proceedings, said King, who did not know how many cases were involved.
The decision on whether a case was dismissed was "based solely on the discretion of the judge" hearing the case, he said.
King said the two Wayne County prosecutors normally assigned to his court handle 40 percent of the cases — violations of state statutes. The rest of the cases are handled by attorneys who work for the City of Detroit. Those cases include parking violations, traffic fines and city ordinance violations.
Worthy said the two prosecutors will probably not return to 36th District Court and they will be assigned to more serious criminal cases. The situation will get worse before it gets better, the prosecutor said, because she is down 52 prosecuting attorneys.
She added that people will remain in jail longer and warrant delays can be expected as a result of the $9 million budget shortfall the office has incurred.
"It's a travesty," Worthy said. "Mr. Ficano obviously doesn't take public safety serious(ly)."
Worthy was informed by the county Friday that she would lose 22 attorneys, 3 investigators and a weekend clerical staffer — all employed as project consultants. Project consultants are contractual employees who do not receive benefits.
Ficano spokeswoman June West said while Wayne County commissioners are responsible for all budget appropriations, "it is up to each elected official — in this case, the prosecutor — to decide for themselves how they will deploy their resources."
"It's (Worthy's) call where she wants to put her resources on a given day," West said. "It's her call where she wants to spend the money the county commissioners appropriate for her."
West said a budget compromise proposal that increases Worthy's approved budget to $30.6 million has been on the prosecutor's desk since last Tuesday.
Worthy responded: "They have no business talking about it (the compromise). It's unethical."
"The prosecutor sued the county in October after Wayne County commissioners funded the prosecutor's office at $25.4 million for the 2012-13 fiscal year. In her suit, Worthy said she needed at least $34 million to run the department.
King and Worthy plan to meet today at 36th District Court to discuss the situation.
King said the district court is caught in the middle of the budget battle between Worthy and Ficano.
"It's having a ripple effect on our court and our operations," King said. "It's something that has to be resolved relatively quickly."