June 27 04:27 AM

Prosecutor race is on

Byron Konschuh faces challenge from Lapeer attorney Phil Fulks

October 22, 2008
LAPEER COUNTY — Among other contests, county residents will vote for a prosecutor on Tues., Nov. 4.

Incumbent Prosecutor Byron Konschuh was appointed Assistant Prosecutor in 1988 and Chief Assistant Prosecutor in 1992. He was elected Prosecutor in 2000 and re-elected in 2004.

A Republican, Konschuh will face a challenge from attorney Phil Fulks, an advocate for greater financial restraint in the prosecutor's office.

Phil Fulks
Konschuh, 48, has been a resident of Lapeer County for 20 years, having been raised in the Ann Arbor area. A 1982 graduate of Albion College, he earned his law degree from Wayne State University in 1985.

Konschuh has served as president of the Lapeer County Association of Chiefs of Police, Lapeer County Bar Association, Family Literacy Center, Lapeer County Domestic and Sexual Violence Coalition and the Lapeer County Child Advocacy Center. He's also served as chairperson for local March of Dimes and United Way campaigns.

Konschuh says his office has performed its duties in an efficient and professional manner during his tenure. He is particularly proud of his support for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and is a strong advocate for abused children.

Byron Konschuh
Konschuh says his biggest challenge is ensuring the public safety while dealing with the limitations of today's depressed economy.

"Our county commission is financially conservative and cautious about where the money goes," says Konschuh. "We're a bare-bones operation. Our budget and staff are smaller than comparable-sized counties."

Konschuh says Lapeer County is unique because a portion of the cost of prosecuting cases is passed along to the individual(s) being prosecuted.

"We collect the cost of prosecution for all cases," he says. "It's a way to punish criminals alternatively. This provides us with a half-million dollars per year in revenue that most counties don't see."

Another cost-cutting measure, says Konschuh, is to offer reasonable plea offers to offenders and by lumping multiple charges against an invididual together, rather than as individual charges.

"Every year, we have about 5,000 civil infractions, 3,000 misdemeaners and 800 to 900 felonies to deal with," he says. "We try to pick and choose our battles and to offer plea offers when possible."

Konschuh believes law enforcement and prosecutors must work together, acting as partners in the ongoing effort to discourage crime.

"Our challenge is to eliminate the repeat offenders," he says. "We do that by offering diversion programs like our Citizens Probation Council. We give them mentoring and support to keep non-violent offenders from repeating their offenses."

Also on the ballot is North Branch resident Phil Fulks, who is running as a Democrat.

A 1978 graduate of North Branch High School, Fulks, 48, serves as a criminal/family lawyer in Lapeer.

Fulks attended the Chinese University of Hong Kong from 1981-82, where he studied Chinese/American politics. He earned his law degree from the University of Toledo in 1990.

Fulks believes Lapeer County needs and is ready for a change at the prosecutor's office. He disputes Konschuh's claim that the current prosecutor's office is run efficiently.

"I have no personal animosity toward Byron (Konschuh), but he is a bureaucrat," says Fulks. "The county is broke. We can't afford to have another term of the current administration.

"We've increased the prosecutor's budget to $1.4 million per year, including seven attorneys and support staff. This is not needed and we can't afford it."

Fulks also alleges that too many non-serious crimes are clogging up the county's court dockets. He would place greater emphasis on charging more serious crimes, and avoiding lesser cases that tie up the court system and cost taxpayers money.

"Our prosecutor's office is overzealous," says Fulks. "The current system encourages more and more charges and more convictions. We have serious crimes that remain unsolved. At the same time, we're ticketing kids for rollerblading.

"My goal is to charge only appropriate cases and to help direct our police agencies to focus on solving real crimes."

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