The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

December 19, 2013

County board served with another suit on attorney pay

Appeal of 2014 budget also objects to staffing levels in county attorney's office

The ongoing legal dispute between Blue Earth County commissioners and county attorneys continued to roll along Thursday, making an appearance at the Wagon Wheel Cafe where Board Chairman Drew Campbell was served with legal papers notifying him of the latest lawsuit.

County Attorney Ross Arneson has already appealed the board's 2012 and 2013 pay scale for his six assistant county attorneys and won in Martin County District Court. But with the board appealing Judge Robert Walker's ruling that commissioners violated state law in underpaying the attorneys, commissioners followed the same pay scale in passing the county's 2014 budget on Tuesday.

So, two days later, the process literally started again with Campbell receiving the salary appeal from a Blue Earth County deputy. It's happened often enough that Campbell had to do some thinking when asked how many times he's had a deputy stop by with legal papers.

"Let's see here. I was subpoenaed into court to testify. They didn't really serve me with the first one. Then there was the contempt one," he said.

The contempt of court hearing occurred just on Monday after Walker agreed with Arneson that the board should explain why they didn't comply with his order on Sept. 12 that the assistant county attorneys have their salaries raised. The board's outside attorney in what's now a trio of lawsuits (hired because the commissioners typically get their legal advise from Arneson) asked Walker to set aside the motion that the board be held in contempt and stay his order that they adjust attorney salaries until the Minnesota Court of Appeals rules on the board's appeal.

State law requires county boards to undertake more rigorous reviews of the salaries of county attorneys and county sheriff's, who like the board are elected by the voters, and also the salaries of those officials' staff members. Among other things, the commissioners are required to consider the duties, qualifications and experience of the employees and compare their pay to counterparts in similar counties.

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