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DA Torrez Should Stop Whining And Fill His 45 Vacant Positions

Politicians and government bureaucrats are fond of saying they never have enough money or employees to do the jobs they're supposed to do.

In fact, all they ever do is ask for more and more money.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez is one of them. Since taking office in January he has complained often that his office is underfunded and understaffed.

“I was shocked to discover that the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office is underfunded even by comparison to those other critical institutions,” Torrez wrote in a Feb. 8 opinion piece in the Albuquerque Journal. “Simply put, we lack both the personnel and the basic resources necessary to provide adequate justice to the citizens of this community.”

Well, before Torrez whines again about not having enough people to prosecute cases, he should answer the question of why he has a 15 percent vacancy rate in his office.

According to the state's Sunshine Portal, Torrez's office has 45 vacant positions out of the 299 positions it's budgeted for. Fourteen of those vacancies are for trial attorneys, and another 14 are for legal secretaries.

It's a good guess that 14 more trial attorneys, who start at $67,600 a year, as well as the same number of legal secretaries, would go a long way in reducing the backlog of cases that's allegedly swamping the DA's office.

It's a mixed bag when it comes to other DA offices in the state. The Santa Fe DA has six vacant positions for an 8 percent vacancy, while the DA in Grants has 20 unfilled positions for a 24 percent vacancy rate.

And why would the Legislature give Torrez more money and more positions when he can't even fill the one's he's already budgeted for? That would be lunacy, and lawmakers need to hammer Torrez on the point.

Torrez has argued that his staffers are underpaid. But senior trial attorneys in his office make between $68,000 and $75,000 a year. That's pretty good for a city whose economy has been stagnant for the past 10 years.

So here's what Torrez should do before he whines again about needing more money. Fill all those vacant positions and get 14 more attorneys on board. Then wait a year to see how things are going. If they're still bad, then you can whine. But not until then.

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