Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy went on the offensive Wednesday, criticizing Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano's handling of her budget. (Clarence Tabb, Jr./The Detroit Newa)
Detroit — Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said Wednesday that dozens of cases dismissed this week in 36th District Court because prosecutors were no-shows will be revisited and people who had some traffic violations dismissed could be in for a surprise.
"We will re-issue those cases," said Worthy during a 40-minute news conference Wednesday at her office in the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice.
Worthy on Wednesday addressed a budget battle being waged following resulting layoffs Friday in her department — 22 attorneys, three investigators and a clerical worker under contracts — which prompted prosecutors to not appear in 36th District Court this week.
Normally, two Wayne County assistant prosecutors are assigned to 36th District Court. They handle violations including drunken driving and suspended license cases.
But Worthy warned that her office is no longer able to handle its caseload after the layoffs, saying "I don't have the people."
Worthy said she is prioritizing which cases will get prosecutors assigned to them but most of her priority cases involve violent crimes.
"I'm not overstating the situation," Worthy added. "This is quite serious."
The budgets cuts have been an ongoing point of contention between Worthy and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano. Last year, Ficano proposed a $25.6 million budget for Worthy's office. The budget was approved by county commissioners. Worthy then sued the county, saying she was promised — and needs — at least $34.3 million to properly run the department.
"There's nothing to cut except for people," said Worthy, adding the current budgeting restrictions are "impossible" to work under.
"The first function of government is to keep its people safe," she said. "…Every day is a game of triage."
Worthy said she can only focus on prosecuting the most dangerous criminals but soon may not even be able to do that if cuts deepen.
"I am down 52 prosecutors," Worthy said.
Worthy's office has about 160 prosecutors and investigators. Her office handled 50,328 cases in 2011, the last official figures available for the prosecutor's office caseload.
Worthy said her office has a serious backlog involving 40 cases in the homicide warrant unit, 130 child abuse cases and 66 sex crimes. She added the budget issue is also impacting a "very high level investigation with international implications."
During the conference, a video loop played highlighting news stories involving Ficano, including stories about the ongoing FBI investigation and recent coverage involving a proposed contract for a driver and security guard for the executive.
The prosecutor criticized Ficano for spending county funds on other departments but not on its core responsibilities. Worthy added that it is "totally disgusting" to suggest that her actions are a publicity stunt and that the prosecutor's budget should be a high priority for county officials.
"You have to fund your mandated departments," she said.
Worthy has held that Ficano promised her the $34.3 million for this fiscal year back in 2010.
"He blatantly chose to ignore this agreement," said Worthy.
The Ficano administration said any conflict she has should be with county commissioners who approved the Ficano-recommended budget. The county is currently operating on a total deficit around $125 million, according to Ficano's office.
County commissioners have said she should work within the budget passed. Commissioner Shannon Price, R-Canton, said Worthy's office is already $4 million over budget for the fiscal year.
"If we don't start getting our house in order, we're going to be next on the emergency manager hit list." Price said.