Agenda Item # 3
Columbus Consolidated Government
Council Meeting

2/23/2016

Agenda Report # 87


TO: Mayor and Council

SUBJECT: 2015-2016 VOCA - Crime Victim Assistance Grant

INITIATED BY: Solicitor General’s Victim Witness Assistance Program



Recommendation: Approval is requested to accept a Federal VOCA (Victims of Crimes Act) Grant in the amount of $21,149 from the Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and approve matching funding of $5,287 from the five percent crime victim surcharge fund for the Solicitor General's Victim Assistance Program. Amend the Mulit-Governmental Fund (216) to reflect these revenues and expenses.

Background: The Solicitor General's Victim Assistance Program was organized in 1997 to manage misdemeanor crime victims' needs and services, participate in law enforcement and community training and awareness, coordinate in-office investigation and prosecution, coordinate community intervention and prevention efforts, and maintain necessary documentation to maintain funding.

In 1998, the Solicitor General’s Victim Witness Assistance Program obtained a Federal VOCA (Victims of Crimes Act) Grant. The VOCA Grant Program supports direct services to crime victims, i.e., persons who have suffered physical, sexual, financial, or emotional harm as a result of the commission of a crime.

Since 1998, the Solicitor General's Victim Witness Assistance Program has provided direct services to crime victims by: interviewing and photographing victims, making referrals to area assistance agencies, accompanying victims to court, obtaining information to deliver to the court as victim impact statements for sentencing, assisting in filing victim compensation claims and obtaining restitution, tracking probation violations, helping victims obtain protective services and orders, making efforts to insulate victims from defendants' actions, and explaining the prosecution process to victims and families. The Victim Assistance office provides assistance to approximately 2400 crime victims in State Court each year.

The VOCA Grant awarded to the Solicitor General's Victim Witness Assistance Program is administered through the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) and the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia (PACGA). The grant amount is $21,149. This grant funds, in part, the Victim Assistance Judicial Technician II position in the Solicitor General's Victim Assistance Office. The remaining balance of the salary and benefits of that position ($5,287) are funded from the five percent crime victim surcharge funds - which have been used in years past as the "matching" funds required by the Grant.

Analysis: The Solicitor General's Victims Witness Assistance Program has again been awarded a Federal VOCA Grant in the amount of $21,149 for FY15/16. City Council is requested to accept the grant and authorize disbursement from the five percent crime victim surcharge fund in the amount of $5,287 to continue to fund the position and meet the 'matching' requirements of the VOCA Grant. Council has approved the grant and the matching funding from the five percent crime victim surcharge fund for years. This is not a new request.

Financial Considerations: This office requests disbursement of funds from the five percent crime victim surcharge fund. Grant use requirements stipulate that the 'match' provided by the grant recipient must include personnel. The grant funds will pay $21,149 of the salary and benefits of the Victim Assistance Judicial Technician II position. The city is reimbursed from the VOCA Grant for the $21,149 in salary for the Victim Assistance Judicial Technician II position. Non-reimbursed salary is requested from the five percent crime victims' assistance surcharge fund. The surcharge fund is specially tagged for funding of victim/witness assistance programs (O.C.G.A. 15-21-132(a)(1). The Solicitor General's Office, prosecuting in State Court, is a major source of this five percent crime victim surcharge fund pool. For years, Council has previously approved the grant and use of the five percent crime victim surcharge for this purpose.

Legal Considerations: Georgia law requires that the prosecutor, here, the Solicitor General, provide extensive services, information, and notification to crime victims. (O.C.G.A 17-7-1 et. seq.). The Solicitor General is directly responsible for complying with this law. The Georgia Legislature exacted the Victims' Bill of Rights mandating that the Solicitor General comply with the law.

Additionally, the Georgia Legislature, acknowledging the additional burdens placed on prosecutors, designed laws enabling prosecutors to provide services directly to victims and the Legislature provided a fund from which the prosecutors to provide services directly to victims and the legislature provided a fund from which the prosecutor may draw to fund the costs incurred therefore. (O.C.G.A 15-21-130 et. seq.). These funds are derived from a five percent penalty assessed on fines ordered in Muscogee County Courts (Crime Victim Surcharge Fund). The amount collected in this fund is substantial.

The governing authority (City Council) authorizes grant award acceptance, approves the disbursement from the five percent crime victim surcharge fund, and enables the Solicitor General to administer the program in compliance with applicable laws.

Recommendations/Actions: (1) Approve acceptance of the $21,149 Federal VOCA Grant award; (2) Approve the request for disbursement of funds from the five percent surcharge in the amount of $5,287 to help continue to fund the Solicitor General's Victim Assistance positions and meet the 'matching' requirement of the Grant; and, (3) amend the Multi Government Fund (216) to reflect these revenues and expenses.


A RESOLUTION
NO. __________

A RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING THE SOLICITOR GENERAL TO ACCEPT A VOCA GRANT AWARD OF $21,149 AND APPROVE FUNDING OF $5,287 FROM THE CRIME VICTIM ASSISTANCE SURCHARGE TO OPERATE THE SOLICITOR-GENERAL’S VICTIM/WITNESS ASSISTANCE PROGRAM FOR OCTOBER 1, 2015 THROUGH SEPTEMBER 30, 2016. AMEND THE MULTI GOVERNMENTAL FUND (216) TO REFLECT THESE REVENUE AND EXPENSES.

WHEREAS, the Solicitor-General designed a Victim/Witness Assistance Program in 1997, which specially addresses the needs of misdemeanor crime victims; and,

WHEREAS, the funds are requested to finance personnel and budget of the Solicitor-General’s Victim/Witness Assistance Program to provide services mandated by Georgia law; and,

WHEREAS, the Solicitor-General is requesting the acceptance of a $21,149 Federal Grant Award and approval of disbursement in matching funds in the amount of $5,287, from the Crime Victim Assistance Surcharge for a total of $ 26,436 to fund salary and benefits; and,

WHEREAS, if accepted, Federal grant monies will reimburse the City for salary, and benefits for the excluding applicable Federal and State taxes.

NOW, THEREFORE, THE COUNCIL OF COLUMBUS, GEORGIA HEREBY RESOLVES;

That the City Manager is hereby authorized to accept a Grant funds for the Solicitor-General’s Victim/Witness Assistance Program from VCS, a Federal grant, and approved the use of $26,436 from the Crime Victim Assistance Surcharge to fund the remaining portion. Amend the Multi Governmental Fund (216) to reflect the revenue and expenses.


__________________

Introduced at a regular meeting of the Council of Columbus, Georgia, held the _______ day of ________________ 2016, and adopted at said meeting by the affirmative vote of ______ members of said Council.

Councilor Allen voting __________.
Councilor Baker voting __________.
Councilor Barnes voting __________.
Councilor Buck voting __________.
Councilor Davis voting __________.
Councilor Henderson voting __________.
Councilor Huff voting __________.
Councilor Thomas voting __________.
Councilor Turner Pugh voting __________.
Councilor Woodson voting __________.



_______________________________ ________________________
Tiny B. Washington, Clerk of Council Teresa Pike Tomlinson, Mayor