Even now, the office’s landlines are not completely installed so staff members are depending on cell phones to communicate with the public and clients. Public Defender Jeff Kelly said the delay getting phone lines installed lies with the state and not his office. He said a temporary cell phone system should have been operational by Monday morning, but a call to the office number mid-afternoon went unanswered.
“I was unaware there were any problems,” Kelly said when contacted by the Johnson City Press. He knew the phones were not working last week, but said he was told the communication system would be working Monday.
“We have to wait on the state of Tennessee,” Kelly said.
The move to the new location, 1102 Sunset Drive, came several years after the office moved from downtown Johnson City to the Burlington building on McKinley Road. Kelly said that office has had mold problems for some time and it could not be remedied.
“We had some serious mold problems and it’s been going on a couple of years,” Kelly said about the Burlington building location. “We just didn’t have any choice.”
He said the public defender’s office gave a 30-day notice to the Burlington landlord, Marvin Carter, that it would be moving. Kelly said the state’s Public Defender Conference in Nashville was also aware and is in charge of the phone system installation through an Information Technology company, Black Box.
“The IT guy said they can only move as fast as the state conference office in Nashville,” Kelly said. “He said they just need a little more time as things move slowly with state. I did not know they were unable to get the cell phone system to the main office working last week. Of course, I am of sorry and concerned that some of our clients were not able to contact us last week, and we will of course be able to speak with them now and hopefully there will be no other delays.”
He said any clients who needs to get in touch with the public defender’s office should call 434-6845 and they will be given the cell phone number for their attorney.