Editorial

6/15/2013

Editorial, 6.15

Gov. Nathan Deals will likely ask the Georgia General Assembly to pass legislation that will control what district attorneys in the state's judicial circuits can or can't do with seized funds. Apparently the governor no longer feels they can be trusted with all the loot they seize following the successful prosecution of criminals.

The apple spoiling the whole bunch in this case is Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, criticized in recent weeks for how he spent forefeited dough.

Some of the expenditures he lists are arguably allowable. For example, it should be OK for a district attorney to upgrade his home security system with seized funds. He or she should be able to protect themselves and their families from prosecuted criminals bent on payback. There's the recent slaying of a district attorney in Texas to remind everyone just how dangerous the job of chief prosecutor can be.

Then there are the questionable expenditures, including ones that appear, at first glance, downright wrong. They include expensive dinners and tickets to events unrelated to the job of prosecutor.

Now, Gov. Deal wants to rein in questionable spending, and who can blame him? Dollars and assets seized from criminals should be reinvested in the criminal justice system. That includes paying the salaries of prosecutors or investigators and donating to police or community projects designed to combat crime. It can even include youth organizations that provide preteens or teens positive experiences.

What it should not be used for are expensive photo shoots of oneself or gifts for relatives.

Most of the district attorneys across the state no doubt utilize forfeitures properly, on fighting crime. Budget cuts and trials that an cost hundreds of thousands of dollars give those dedicated to their job little other choice. They take their duty and obligation to the law-abiding public to heart.

Then there are those whose actions set new laws in motion.