The chief public defender is delaying for a month his departure - originally planned for Feb. 15 - to help make sure the agency has adequate leadership while its board of directors searches for a successor. Cook is stepping down after 12 years as the county's top public defender to work for immigration firm Gresk & Singleton in Indianapolis.
Because the agency needed leadership and his new law firm offered some flexibility, Cook agreed to stay a little longer.
"We're very grateful to him for being willing to stay and give us more time," said board chairman Jimmie McMillian, an associate at Barnes & Thornburg. "He had an opportunity to stay, and once we saw that opportunity existed we didn't hesitate to ask vigorously."
The decision means the board won't have to appoint an interim director while it searches for a successor, McMillian said.
Ten attorneys applied for the position by the Feb. 1 deadline, and the board originally planned to conduct interviews next week. Scheduling conflicts prevented that, and first interviews are now planned for Feb. 26 and second interviews are slated for March 3, McMillian said. The board will determine the next step after those second interviews, he added.
Complicating the timeline is that the new administration is still making appointments to the board, which consists of nine people - four named by the presiding Superior Court judge, four by the City-County Council, and one by the Indianapolis mayor. After the board makes a decision, the City-County Council has confirmation power and must approve the appointment.
He would not disclose the applicants' names, but McMillian said all applicants needed to have five years experience as an attorney, including at least two years handling criminal cases and at least 10 jury trials that reached a verdict. The person ultimately chosen will oversee a staff of about 250 full-time and contract attorneys, and will be the public face of the organization on indigent public defense.