As Solicitor-General, I am charged with prosecuting misdemeanor crimes and county ordinance offenses that have occurred in DeKalb County. I manage a team comprised of over 100 attorneys, investigators, advocates and administrative staff and a budget of over 7 million dollars. I oversee approximately 13,000 cases filed in the State Court of DeKalb County every year and an additional 175,000 cases filed in the traffic and ordinance divisions of State and Magistrate Court. These are cases that affect our families, our children, and our communities – domestic violence, educational neglect, driving under the influence, to name but a few. It is my job to make sure that we are managing our funds wisely and handling each of these individual cases appropriately so that DeKalb County is a safer place for all of us to live, work and play.
It has been my honor to serve as your Solicitor-General since 2011. In that time, I have worked hard, and I have learned a tremendous amount about what it takes to be effective. My experience as Solicitor-General has taught me:
- Connecting with the Community is Important: When I began my tenure as Solicitor-General, one of my first hiring decisions was to create DeKalb County’s first full-time community prosecutor. This was incredibly important to me because I knew from my experience as a defense attorney it is far too easy for prosecutors to become entrenched in the courthouse and lose touch with the communities that they serve. I also felt like this would be a good way to strengthen a relationship with our police department and keep the lines of communication open. Five years later, I could not be prouder of our community prosecution program. We regularly attend neighborhood and business association meetings, host trainings and community outreach programs, run a Court Watch program, track repeat offenders and prosecute cases of special interest to the community. As just one example, in response to community complaints, we successfully worked to clean up a gas station at 3000 Moreland Avenue that had become a hotspot for criminal activity. We listen to connect with our community to help guide us where our resources are most needed.
- Smart Prosecution is Effective: As a prosecutor, I apply the law consistently to ensure that convictions are secured in a fair and just manner and that offenders are held accountable. However, smart prosecution also means using community outreach to get at the root of crime and diversion programs to give low-level, non-violent offenders a chance to get back on track through restitution, community service, job training, and treatment for substance abuse. This saves the county money and keeps jail space available for the violent offenders who pose a threat to our communities. A strategic intervention can also be what a person needs to get off a path of crime. I believe that intervention at the misdemeanor level may well might prevent that person from committing a violent felony. In my first year as Solicitor-General, I created DeKalb County’s first centralized pre-trial diversion program for low-level misdemeanors. Cases, such as first time possession of marijuana, now go through diversion where the charges are dismissed upon completion of the program. Five years later my pre-trial diversion program is going strong. My office also coordinates specialized diversion programs for prostitution cases, youthful offenders, and educational neglect cases. We also participate in accountability courts for offenders with mental health issues and alcohol abuse issues.
- We Succeed When We Collaborate: In 2014, I was asked to take over the then-struggling DeKalb County Recorder’s Court. Up until that point, District Attorney Robert James had been the acting prosecuting authority in Recorder’s Court and had decided to leave the Court without a real transition plan in place. It was a very difficult time for the public as the status of the Court was left up in the air by Mr. James’ sudden departure. We worked closely for months with our State Court Judiciary, Magistrate Court, State Court Clerk, Public Defender’s Office and Police Department to recreate a court system that would better serve the public. It could not have been accomplished without coming together as partners with a common goal of serving the public and getting the job done. While it is important to recognize that we all have different roles within the criminal justice system, it is equally important that we collaborate whenever possible. I am now proud to say that as a part of that collaborative effort, we now have the new State Court Traffic and Magistrate Divisions. We have seen firsthand this new “people’s Court” transform the perception of the court system in DeKalb County.
- Transparency and Integrity Matters: As an elected official, I am responsible for not only performing my duties but ensuring that it is done with the highest level of integrity, accountability, and professionalism. I am proud to say that since 2011, I have maintained an office that has been fiscally responsible and a good steward of taxpayer funds by consistently staying within my budget. It is not easy during difficult economic times but it is during those times where creative thinking and good management allowed me to do my job even with less money. Citizens have been forced to stretch a dollar at home; in turn, I stretched that same dollar at the Solicitor-General Office. Additionally, we have seen trust eroded in our county where other elected officials have abused and misused the funds that have been entrusted to them. I take my responsibility of maintaining all receipts and logs for the taxpayer dollars spent very seriously as I believe any leader should. Further, I am proud to say that without hesitation I have always given access to all of my records and been willing to answer any and all questions the public may have about each transaction. Any and all leaders must be willing to do the same, and I gladly lead by example.