ELIZABETHTOWN — The Essex County Public Defender’s Office will have to run without Chief Public Defender Brandon Boutelle for nine months in 2014.
Boutelle said Tuesday he is being recalled to active duty with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General Corps, effective Jan. 4.
He said his orders say he will provide legal services at a Navy submarine base.
Previously, Boutelle served a tour as a military defense attorney at Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba.
He told the Essex County Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee that he won’t return from the sub base until Oct. 10, 2014.
The committee voted unanimously to make Assistant Public Defender William Tansey acting chief public defender while Boutelle is gone and pay him the chief defender’s salary.
“It (chief defender) is a 24/7 job. It’s worth the extra pay,” Boutelle said.
The county will also hire a temporary full-time assistant public defender to do Tansey’s job while he is acting chief defender.
NO EXTRA COST
Boutelle said he is not paid by the county while on military leave, so there should be no additional cost to the county.
“I think we can cover my absence within the same budgetary footprint, but it’s whatever works best for the county,” Boutelle said.
The alternative would be to ask local courts to use the assigned-counsel program to fill the gaps.
“I think it’s more complicated in the long run to go out to the assigned-counsel program,” County Manager Daniel Palmer said. “I’d prefer we hire someone.”
The committee OK’d hiring a full-time temp, and it gets a final vote at the Board of Supervisors’ year-end meeting at 10 a.m. Monday, Dec. 30.
Boutelle, of Lake Placid, was named an assistant public defender in January 2005 and then chief defender in 2010, following the death of Livingston Hatch.
As a current member of the U.S. Navy Reserve JAG Corps, he holds the rank of commander, the equivalent of a lieutenant colonel in the Army.
Boutelle graduated from Albany Law School in 2000. He received a criminal-justice degree from Rochester Institute of Technology in 1997.
The committee also approved increasing hours for Public Defender’s Investigator Dennis Johnson, so he can work on more cases. Johnson will work about seven more hours a week.
“It’s money well spent,” Boutelle said.
That also gets a final vote Dec. 30.
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