DA Williams Blasts Nutter on Budget

District Attorney Seth Williams blasted Mayor Nutter Monday for “flat-lining” his budget, saying there has been “no communication as to what our priorities are,” and calling the administration’s budget process “inadequate and disrespectful.”

Williams delivered his blistering assessment in testimony before Council. He said Nutter proposed to increase police, prison and other budgets while not even providing enough money to cover mandated salary hikes in the District Attorney’s office.

Williams said he would need at least $2 million above the $31.6 million the mayor has proposed to prevent the cutting of “innovative programs” he has started, such as ones that move low-level marijuana possession and misdemeanor cases out of the criminal court system.

Williams called that a “conservative, bare-bones request,” saying that he would need $4.5 million to keep up with the rate of inflation over the past four years.

“The truth is that the mayor’s budgetary proposal undermines our battles against crime,” Williams said.

Williams said he detailed his concerns in a March 6 letter that has not been answered, a claim that Mark McDonald, a spokesman for Nutter, said “is simply not true.”

McDonald said Nutter’s chief of staff, Everett Gillison, and First Assistant District Attorney Ed McCann discussed the letter in March, and Gillison pledged to cover the cost of increased salaries in the district attorney’s office.

McCann, however, disputed that he and Gillison ever did more than exchange e-mails, and he said Gillison never made that promise to him. (McCann provided two e-mail exchanges, neither of which contained that promise. One concerned an invitation to discuss salary “parity” with the Law Department and the Defender Association. Williams and McCann declined the invitation.)

Nutter and Williams also met in recent weeks, McDonald said, and the mayor promised funding for one of the district attorney’s new programs – an anti-violent crime effort dubbed Focused Deterrence. McDonald said the two have worked closely and become “a dynamic duo” on battling illegal guns – a signature issue for each.

McDonald acknowledged that the mayor is proposing a budget for the District Attorney that is essentially unchanged from 2008. But, he noted, the District Attorney’s budget was cut below $29 million during the recession and the mayor has been working to restore it.

As for why Williams would speak so bluntly and critically, McDonald said there are many worthy departments and causes clamoring for limited funding, including a school system asking for an additional $60 million.

“In a process like this, you have to make a strong pitch and that’s what he’s doing,” McDonald said.

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