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Ulster, Dutchess counties collaborate to protect regional taxpayers

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Albany/HV: Ulster, Dutchess counties collaborate to protect regional taxpayers
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In an effort to protect the region’s taxpayers, Dutchess and Ulster counties are joining forces. YNN’s Alexandra Weishaupt has more on a first of its kind program in the state.

KINGSTON, N.Y. -- “In Ulster and Dutchess counties they combine for over $4 million in taxpayer expenses. It is a severely underfunded state mandate,” said Ulster County Executive Mike Hein.

Ulster County Executive Mike Hein is talking about providing assigned attorneys to needy clients. While every person has the right to public defense regardless of their means, the cost is continuing to rise. That could all change as Ulster and Dutchess agree to team up.

“Each county will hire an attorney in their public defender’s office and they will handle those conflicted situations on the other side of the river,” said Hein.

When a public defender’s office is disqualified from representing a client due to a legal conflict, a private attorney is then assigned. But under the new plan, hiring two fulltime public defenders will save taxpayers in both counties more than $300,000.

The agreement is a one year pilot program in Ulster County, City of Kingston and Town of Ulster courts, along with both Dutchess County Court and City of Court.

“This is one of those moments where in fact we are brought together by a good policy, good politics and good public service,” said Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.

Each attorney will be limited to no more than 400 cases per year. Ulster County Public Defender Andrew Kossover looks forward to the possible arrangement.

“Given the current economic landscape, anything we can do to save cost is beneficial and sharing services regionally or between counties is a good thing,” said Ulster County Chief Public Defender Andrew Kossover.

If approved, it’s expected to take effect by January.

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