CANTON -- In the wake of inaction by the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators, District Attorney Mary Rain has issued a statement reinforcing her case for higher pay for her assistant DAs.
“The need to maintain attorney and staff continuity is an absolute necessity for this county,” the statement from her office says. “Without addressing adequate ADA salaries, the recurring issue of turnover and inexperience will continue to loom. This is a matter of public safety - the citizens of St. Lawrence County deserve to feel safe in their community.”
“The victims of crimes deserve the best attorneys – how could we ever provide less?” Rain is quoted as saying in the news release.
The county board took up the proposal Monday but tabled the matter after the discussion got heated.
St. Lawrence County Legislator Frederick S. Morrill said Rain believed the county’s ADA’s were underpaid compared to others throughout the state, which results in a high turnover and less experienced new hires.
Morrill said Democrats attending the meeting supported the resolution but Republican legislators argued that the raise was not in the budget and unfair to other county employees and departments who have been cutting costs.
“However, this resolution does not increase the money budgeted to this office for the year of 2014,” Rain said. In fact, Rain said, “Even with the increases in Grade, we will still come under budget by approximately $28,000.”
She also cited the “24/7 commitment” of ADAs, who are required to “manage their caseload and appear in local or county court, while they are prepping for trials, responding to motions, and interviewing victims and witnesses. ADAs are always on call, requiring them to provide bail recommendations to local court judges at arraignment, respond to vehicle crash sites to assist with fatal accident collisions, and visit and assist at crime scenes, such as meth labs,” the news release said.
Rain said her proposal deserved support in light of the reduction in county costs her office has accrued since she took office.
“The previous administration turned over its attorney staff every 18 months, leading to significant backlogs, speedy trial dismissals, and poor conviction rates,” which all cost money, the statement said.
The statement said that there has been “a drastic reduction in the number of felony cases pending on the court’s docket, ultimately resulting in reduced cost to the county for assigned counsel, probation services, and housing defendants awaiting trial.”
Morrill noted that if the jail population decreased by five prisoners in one year, this would amount to a cost savings of $182,500.
Also cited in the statement was the opinion of Sheriff Kevin Wells, who “stated at a recent Board of Legislators meeting that his jail population has steadily decreased, especially in the last month and a half. This is significant since this is when the experienced ADAs started.
Morrill, chair of the county board’s Finance Committee, said Republicans also feared the higher-pay proposal would result in more requests for higher pay from other departments.