Jan 252013

Proving that one county office can excel in many fields, the Navajo County Attorney’s Office won County Summit Awards in five different categories. County Attorney and Arizona Association of Counties Second Vice President Brad Carlyon accepted the awards, along with several of the key personnel responsible for the outstanding programs being recognized.
The Paperless Office Program won in the Information Technology category. In 2009, the Navajo County Attorney’s Office began looking for a new database system to allow for electronic filing with the courts, and for the office to go paperless as well. At the time, the office was operating a 13-year-old system with numerous technical limitations. Early estimates indicated that the type of system needed would cost the office be-tween $100,000 and $350,000, but by partnering with a software provider, LegalEdge, as a beta tester of their new system, American Prosecutor, the office was able to begin using the software at no initial cost. Working within a budget of $50,000 to purchase new laptops for the attorneys and for training, the Navajo County Attorney’s Office has successfully been using a system for over two years, which has already surpassed the systems used by the courts in functionality.
The office’s Teen Drinking Video Contest was honored with the award for Criminal Justice & Public Safety. Underage drinking is a national epidemic, but also a tragic local issue. Statistics from 2008 show that more than 30 percent of high school-age children had consumed alcohol, with over half that number having consumed in the past 30-day period. To combat this problem, the office instituted a video contest where junior high to high school students were asked to create videos for their peers warning of the dangers of under-age drinking. The young filmmakers were encouraged to create videos that were funny, tragic and everything in between. Winning submissions became public safety announcements broadcast on the local Channel 4 TV (also broadcast in schools) and at WME Movie Theatres. Since participants bore the costs of production, and the broadcasting services were donated, the only cost to the county was that of the cash awards for winners, ranging from $25 to $100.
And even though the mission of the county attorney’s office is focused on justice and public safety, it has also contributed in the field of community and economic development. Winning the award in that category was the Navajo County Bad Check Program. Being a rural county with a major east-west highway crossing through resort communities, bad checks can be a problem in Navajo County. The publicity program involved the production of a public service announcement, and the distribution of signs and pamphlets educating local businesses about how the Navajo County Attorney’s Office could help them recover lost funds, free of charge. The program is entirely self-funded, with the statutory fees collected paying for the one staff member administering it. In its first year, the program collected $200,000, and to date has collected more than $1,625,000.
Although several of these programs have involved civil engagement and public information, the award for that specific category went to the Navajo County Attorney’s Office Victim’s Rights Symposium. With most government agencies experiencing budget cuts, it has been challenging in recent years to provide the outreach to victims necessary to support and inspire those who have been involuntarily pulled into the justice system. Upon realizing that grant funds were available that could help bring awareness to Victims’ Rights Week, Carlyon suggested a symposium for victims, public citizens and staff members of any agencies that provide victim services. Utilizing a $5,000 grant, plus $4,526 in donations as well as other non-cash in-kind contributions, a symposium was presented which built a bridge between county and tribal governments that directed its efforts at all of the county’s residents. Travel scholarships were provided for some who had to travel more than 100 miles to attend, and presentations were made on various topics ranging from justice and public safety, to public health and child welfare. The symposium also included live entertainment, and has recently completed its third annual presentation. Attendance has doubled each year since the first symposium.
And finally, in the special award category of Public-Private Partnerships was the Navajo County Family Resource Center. Prior to the implementation of this program, victims of sexual crimes in Navajo County often had to endure multiple steps of interviews, exams and evidence collection over a period of several days to several weeks in the process of reporting the crime. By partnering with the non-profit Navajo County Family Resource Center and taking advantage of public and private grants, as well as donations, the county is now able to provide two facilities, one in Holbrook and another in Show Low, where victims are able to complete the entire process in one stop. The facilities feature a comfortable sitting area, soft interview rooms with hidden cameras that allow investigators to observe interviews without intruding, medical facilities, showers and fresh clothing. The facility directors’ salaries, utilities, equipment and furnishings are all paid entirely through grants and donations. The addition of these facilities has streamlined the investigative process for these types of crimes, saving the county money on travel and manhours, and, more importantly, saving victims the emotional pain of constantly reliving their trauma in the pursuit of justice.

Photo courtesy of the Arizona Association of Counties
Arizona Association of Counties President Keith Russell (left) and AACO Foundation Chairman Derek Rapier (right) congratulate Navajo County Attorney Brad Carlyon and Navajo County Bad Check Program Director Gail DeCross on two of the five Summit Awards Carlyon’s office won this year.