Darcel Clark, who was extremely short on specifics about her plans for the position in a Sept. 30 question and answer session with local Democrats, provided more details regarding what she would do as Bronx District Attorney in an announcement on Wednesday.
Her proposals, which largely focus on increasing efficiency, include creating a Public Integrity Unit that would focus on rooting out corruption at public offices and agencies and setting up a system at the office similar to CompStat that would help hold staffers accountable for dealing with cases in a timely fashion.
The current DA Robert Johson was often criticized for his low conviction rate and large case backlog.
The system would contain information on details like how long cases have been pending, whether they are handled by trial or by plea, and how long it takes the office to finish dealing with them.
"I can’t really say what they do right now," Clark said, referring to the office's system for keeping track of cases. "I know that’s something that I want to do because I want to make sure that I have my finger on the pulse of all the cases I have that are pending in the office."
She also hopes to eliminate case backlogs by setting up special task forces to look through old misdemeanors and indictments and assigning just one assistant district attorney to handle each case from start to finish.
"They’ll know who the victim is. They’ll know the police. They will know what additional information comes in on the case," she said. "They will have it from beginning to end."
Currently, different ADAs handle different aspects of prosecuting cases, which can lead to miscommunications and delays at the office, according to Clark's plan.
She is running as the Democratic candidate to replace Johnson, who announced in September that he would be leaving the office to seek a state judgeship.
Democrats nominated him to be a New York State Supreme Court Justice on Sept. 24, freeing them up to choose Clark as their replacement candidate.
The process was heavily criticized by good government groups, as Johnson did not announce his intention to seek a judgeship until after he had already won the primary, giving party leaders the authority to choose his replacement candidate and leading to fears that Clark would prove unwilling to investigate corruption cases.
However, Clark stressed that she did not develop her plan to establish a Public Integrity Unit as a reaction to this criticism.
"The Public Integrity Office is because there is a need to make sure I have a specialized unit to deal with those cases when I come in," she said. "It’s not a response to anything. It's something that’s needed in The Bronx as it is in every other county."
Dick Dadey, executive director of the watchdog group Citizens Union, said that her pledge to create a Public Integrity Unit did not fully dispel his fears about the office becoming reluctant to look into corruption, and its effectiveness would largely depend upon how willing Clark was to put resources into it.
"The District Attorney already has the responsibility and authority to pursue, to root out public corruption, and does creating a separate unit somehow aid in that? I don't know," he said. "We just don’t know yet. It really will depend upon focus, attention, resources, support."
Clark will face off against the Republican and Conservative candidate Robert Siano in the Nov. 3 election. Siano officially kicks off his campaign on Wednesday evening.
"I welcome it. It's a race now," Clark said in response to Siano's entry. "People have a choice."