County legislators discuss new position at District Attorney’s office

Cortland County District Attorney Patrick Perfetti. (Photo via Cortland County).

Cortland County Legislators are considering creating a part-time victims advocate position at District Attorney Patrick Perfetti’s office.

The new position was discussed at Tuesday’s Judiciary and Public Safety (JPS) Committee meeting.

“It’s what I think we need and what my administrative staff thinks would be best to augment what we’re dealing with right now,” Perfetti said. “At this point, when we’re able to provide any victim advocacy is (typically) lawyers taking time out of processing cases to do it.”

Otherwise, Perfetti said, the other way the county provides victim advocacy services is if a victim is a minor.

“The child advocacy center is able to provide some assistance there,” he added.

In Tompkins County, victims advocacy services include informing victims about how a criminal case works, advising victims about upcoming court dates and appearances, and seeking input from victims about how they would like to see the case handled. 

Perfetti said his office is understaffed.

“I am down a third of my litigators and getting no applicants,” he added. “We’ve lost some cases due to that shortfall. So this may be a position that will help out.”

A way to pay for this position would be through the 2023-2024 New York budget, which needs to be approved by the State Legislature by April 1. 

“The governor’s budget has a significant increase for DA’s offices,” Perfetti said. “The legislature hasn’t voted on what that increase will look like, but it is about five times more than it has been in previous years for DA’s offices.”

Legislator Cathy Bischoff (D-LD-3) said she believes the position should be funded by the county, but would like to know how much that would cost.

Perfetti noted there is no figure yet.

“I don’t think we’re at that point yet,” he said. “We’ve just got the job description. So I'll be guided by Director of Personnel Laurie Leonard as to what the next step is. I believe the next step is looking to see how the position fits in with other union positions that are comparable.”

Legislators will continue to discuss the creation of this position at the JPS committee meeting in March.