County commissioners have tentatively renewed the contract with attorney Dylan Frehner of Panaca to serve as the county public defender. The new contract takes effect July 1, 2017.
Frehner noted a few changes in the public defender service for the coming year. He plans to share the services with a former assistant in his office, Shain Manuele who recently opened his own local law firm.
He recalled that when he first started in 2010, all the local public defender cases would came through his office in Pioche between the two attorneys in that office, and he had an arrangement worked out with attorney Rich Sears of Ely, “who would cover any conflicts.”
Frehner said with three attorneys taking on the public defender services, “it made a huge difference and saved a lot of money.” He noted before 2010 the state of Nevada was charging Lincoln County about $115,000 per year for public defender service, with all the attorneys coming from Ely, and that made it hard to get an attorney down to Lincoln County.”
On top of that, the county, whenever there were conflicts, was paying Frehner and another local attorney at the time, about $165,000 a year. “If that method had continued to the present day,” he said, “it would have cost the County $990,000.”
For 2017, Frehner said he was requesting to increase the fee for public defender services to $150,000 per year. “Still, because of our lower fees locally since 2010,” he said, “I believe it has saved the county about $200,000.”
He added the reason for being able to save the county money “is because we are here locally, and even if there are conflicts, I can’t tell you the number of times the people are willing to waive those conflicts in order to have our office represent both of them, just because we are here and they want to get their case done quickly.”
With having Frehner and Manuele handling cases, it will continue to save the county on travel and lodging expenses.
Frehner said he will handle the majority of the bigger cases, because of his experience, and Manuele will handle many of the others.
Commissioners accepted Frehner’s request for his services “subject to approval in the upcoming county budget process.”