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Replacing departing assistant DA up in air

ALBANY -- When Chief Assistant District Attorney Chris Cohilas moves on to private practice April 27, budget snags could make replacing him difficult.

"The worst-case scenario that I see is a delay," said Dougherty Judicial Circuit District Attorney Greg Edwards. "I hope to fill the position before he leaves."

While the county pays for half of the assistant district attorney staff, the state pays for the chief assistant district attorney and the other half, Edwards said. It is up to the Prosecuting Attorney's Council of Georgia to allocate payroll.

The state froze an assistant district attorney's slot in 2008 when Edwards was interim district attorney, he said. He has not been allowed to fill it.

The District Attorney's Office staff of 15 prosecuted more than 3,000 felonies and 19,000 misdemeanors last year, Edwards said.

"We really don't need to lose another attorney," he said. "We couldn't take a cut like that without the entire system bogging down."

While working at the district attorney's office since 2003 and as chief assistant starting in 2008, Cohilas has prosecuted felony crimes against children, serious violent felonies and cases involving extended or complex litigation.

Edwards did not immediately have the pay scale for the position available. Cohilas declined to comment on his pay.

The director of the Prosecuting Attorneys Council in Atlanta will not be available to discuss the budget for the position until late next week.

The council is going through its own budget woes, a spokesman said. The council has three regional offices, including one in Albany, that might be cut from the state budget, he said.

A message left on the Albany office answering machine went unreturned.