The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

May 17, 2013

Commissioners grilled in court over attorney pay

Ruling to come this summer

(Continued)

MANKATO —

“That’s correct,” Stuehrenberg said.

Commissioners Mark Piepho and Kip Bruender, on the management negotiating team with unions, said they delved into the duties and responsibilities of the assistant county attorneys during negotiations with the attorneys’ union.

And Scott Lepak, the Minneapolis attorney hired by the board, questioned Purvis and Stuehrenberg, a retired Mankato police officer, about their professional interaction with the assistant county attorneys during their law enforcement careers — an apparent effort to show that they understood the duties and skills of the attorneys.

Rovney and DeVos also asked questions about the county’s decision to compare assistant county attorney salaries here with those paid in the Region Nine counties immediately surrounding Blue Earth County. All are smaller, most substantially smaller, in population than Blue Earth County.

Only Commissioner Drew Campbell said he independently researched the pay in other counties, partly because several Region Nine counties either don’t have assistant county attorneys or only part-timers.

“I just thought it might not be as beneficial to look at those,” Campbell said.

Campbell said he ultimately decided that the Blue Earth County salaries appeared similar to others he looked at, specifically mentioning Rice County.

Rovney also asked Meyer how his salary and the salaries of other top administrators in the county compared to counterparts in Region Nine.

“I believe there are differences,” Meyer said of Blue Earth County’s management salaries.

Rovney specifically asked where Blue Earth County ranked among the nine south-central Minnesota counties for county administrator, human services director, engineer, sheriff and county attorney.

“They are higher,” Meyer said.

Lepak, the board’s attorney, quizzed Meyer about the attorneys’ proposal during union negotiations to have those with about 10 years of experience moved to a D63 classification — which would have brought raises of as much as 30 percent to salaries now topping out at about $77,000. At that classification, only the top managers in the county would be paid more, Meyer said.

“There would be 10 above that level,” he said.

The arbitrator sided with the county in September, but a different section of state law is in play for the salary appeal.

 Walker instructed the attorneys to submit written arguments in June, after which he would issue a decision.

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