Cobb approves funds for additional District Attorney staff

Flynn Broady, Cobb County's newly-elected Democratic District Attorney, is in his new office in downtown Marietta on Friday, January 15, 2021. Broady shares some of what is planned for his four-year term.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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Flynn Broady, Cobb County's newly-elected Democratic District Attorney, is in his new office in downtown Marietta on Friday, January 15, 2021. Broady shares some of what is planned for his four-year term. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Newly elected Cobb District Attorney Flynn Broady told county commissioners on Tuesday that adding seven new positions, including two assistant district attorneys, would help prevent more deaths at the county jail.

The recent fatalities of county jail inmates were a significant issue in the 2020 elections that propelled Democrats into local office — among them Broady, the sheriff and three county commissioners.

In a contentious exchange at Tuesday’s commission meeting with Kelli Gambrill, a Republican and the lone commissioner to oppose funding for the positions, Broady read off the names of four inmates who died in 2019 from a drug overdose, suicide, natural causes and complications from a perforated gastric ulcer.

Three of the inmates were taken into custody on drug possession charges. Another was arrested for driving on a suspended license.

Broady said that adding the positions would move people through the criminal justice system more quickly.

“The programs that we are trying to put in place, doing the things the right way, would have eliminated those deaths in our jail, because those individuals would have been placed back in the community, back to their jobs, back to their homes, where they could have sought proper medical care,” Broady said. “What we are trying to do is take two to three years and reduce it down to 90 days, the stay people have in our criminal justice system.”

The positions are being partially funded on a temporary basis out of roughly $276,000 of the $132 million in CARES Act money that the federal government awarded to the county in 2020.

Broady is expect to request that the county permanently fund the positions, which also include two legal administrative specialists, two investigators and a criminal intelligence analyst, when commissioners approve the fiscal 2022 budget that begins in October.

Gambrill argued that it wasn’t appropriate to use federal CARES Act funds — intended to alleviate the economic hardship due to the pandemic — for expenses that would become permanent. That type of spending would lead to shortfalls, Gambrill said.

“Essentially this board is setting us up for another $30, $60, $90 million deficit,” Gambrill said.