As Hamilton County works on the 2015 budget, Commissioner Greg Hartmann is floating an idea he thinks could save money. He'd like to combine the city and county prosecutor offices.
"The city prosecutor's office makes absolutely no sense to me," says Hartmann. "It's an obvious overlap. When I was a county prosecutor I walked into that courtroom on my first day in municipal court and there was another city prosecutor in the same courtroom prosecuting the same crimes that just happened to have been committed in the city limits."
The city currently prosecutes all misdemeanor crimes that occur within city limits. The county handles everything else. But Hartmann says the county could be doing the city's misdemeanor cases as well.
Hartmann says this is more than just a government inefficiency, it's an unequal application of justice.
"There are many crimes where there is no plea bargaining allowed in the city and that's not the case in the county. So you're having categories of citizens being prosecuted in different ways based on where the crime occurred."
In a statement Hartmann adds:
A formal proposal is still being crafted. However, the City has currently budgeted $1.8 million in their 2015 budget for the Municipal Court Prosecution function of the City’s Solicitor’s budget. By contracting with the County to hire City Prosecutors in the County Prosecutor’s office, the City can achieve significant budget savings. When we initially reviewed this concept in 2011, we identified about $500,000 in savings to the City.
The discussion prompted renewed calls from the other two county commissioners to work with the city on finding savings through shared services.
Interim City Solicitor Terry Nestor had no comment on the issue other than to say the "city has not had any formal discussion with the County on this topic recently."
Previous attempts by Cincinnati Council to turn over city prosecutions to the county have been unsuccessful.