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Express prosecution: DA wanted $190,000
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LATHROP – Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal is hoping that a meeting with San Joaquin County District Attorney James P. Willett will help improve the active prosecution of those who commit crimes in Lathrop.

Rather than shelling out $190,000 to pay for a dedicated prosecutor to handle local cases, the Lathrop City Council agreed Monday night to have Mayor Joseph “Chaka” Santos contact Willett to set up a meeting and see what can be done to step up the active prosecution of cases that are referred to the District Attorney’s office by Lathrop Police Services.

Dhaliwal, who agrees that something needs to be done, sees the cost that the DA’s office is asking as a double-tax on residents of Lathrop.

“Our citizens are always paying in county coffers, and I don’t think that they should be double-dipping on something like this,” Dhaliwal said. “They should be prosecuting these crimes. I want more to be done. People in the county need to know that they aren’t giving us charity when we ask for something like this – this is what the residents pay for.”

The cost to fund the position, said City Manager Cary Keaten, would adversely impact Lathrop’s future budget projects if it were to be approved by the council.

According to the presentation made regarding the issue, the council briefly discussed in their 2011 goal-setting session how public safety was a top priority in regards to the dedicated prosecutor. However, the council also said that they would like to see funding re-established for a second School Resource Officer and a Community Impact Team Officer.

Keaten said that the cost of paying one of those deputies could be upwards of $170,000-a-year, and adding that cost to the upcoming budget – where revenue is expected to break even with expenditures – would throw the ratio severely out of whack.

The council asked that the prosecutor issue be brought back for them after it was lumped in with a proposal to either extend the contract of the Economic Development consultant or fund a full-time position at the last meeting. Councilwoman Martha Salcedo, who had pressed staff to come up with a breakdown of the benefits to the taxpaying residents, wasn’t at Monday’s meeting to vote on the matters.

It’ll be up to the council now to decide who gets to meet with Willett. Legally, any more than two council members that meet with a public official to discuss city business qualifies as a quorum and violates open meeting rules.