The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 20, 2013

County Board may challenge attorney pay

Board members see flaws in law as case is watched statewide

(Continued)

The board largely relied on that system, as administered by St. Paul-based pay consultant Fox Lawson and Associates, in setting salaries for the assistant county attorneys.

"You have conflicting state statutes," Purvis said. "That's the real question for me: which state statute prevails in this?"

Campbell, in contrast, simply believes Walker got it wrong.

The board used numerous processes in attempting to settle on a fair salary structure for the attorneys, according to Campbell, who noted that he personally looked at what other counties paid their assistant attorneys.

And Campbell believes the salary appeal system is set up in a way that puts a county board at a disadvantage. District court judges are often former prosecutors, he said, and they interact on a regular basis with prosecutors in court.

"I think it's a conflict of interest," he said. "Your district judges and county attorneys work closely together."

Weighing pros and cons

Still, Campbell doesn't rule out reluctantly accepting Walker's decision and attempting to adjust salaries in a way that will satisfy his order. Walker gave the board 60 days from his Sept. 12 ruling to file "salary determinations for budget years 2012 and 2013" for the assistant county attorneys and wrote that he will "verify the Board's compliance."

"What we could do instead (of appealing) is undergo a healthy process of review and at the end of the day add some steps," he said, referring to the county pay system that has a certain number of salary "steps" corresponding with years of service. "... I think it's time to add some money for the hard work they do."

Bruender, though, wonders if that will only lead to disgruntlement by remaining county employees. The owner of an Eagle Lake auto repair and body shop, Bruender looks at the basic math: satisfy six assistant county attorneys and potentially end up with "398 that aren't happy."

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