St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary Rain has praised legislators for increasing salaries for her staff.
In a 10-4 vote the county legislature approved a $48,000 total increase for the seven assistant district attorneys. This includes a substantial increase in pay for chief assistant district attorney David Haggard.
Republicans Joseph Lightfoot, Kevin Acres, Daniel Parker and Alex McKinnon opposed the measure. Legislator Mark Akins was absent. Republican Legislator Scott Sutherland joined Democrats in voting in favor.
The bill caused controversy at a previous board meeting as several Republicans claimed the measure bypassed the county’s budgeting process and was largely unfair to other departments.
“I would like to thank those legislators who by their bipartisan vote this evening recognized the cost savings that come with supporting my plan of action. My plan of action is aimed at combatting crime and working to protect the citizens of our county; a plan built on a foundation of experience and commitment, while never losing sight of the need for fiscal responsibility. By voting for this resolution these Legislators have remained faithful to fiscal responsibility while reaffirming their oath and commitment to the safety of the citizens of St. Lawrence County,” Rain said in a press release.
St. Lawrence County Legislator Fred Morrill originally brought the resolution forward. He said the increase in salaries would reduce turnover and improve the conviction rate.
However in a recent “Letter to the Editor,” St. Lawrence County public defender Stephen Button said that paying assistant district attorneys more would not lead to increased convictions.
“Aggressive prosecution with increased convictions cannot be accomplished by any district attorney alone - it requires a team of experienced and knowledgeable prosecutors,” she said. “Successful prosecution requires good judgment, and good judgment comes from experience.”
Since taking office this past January, Rain says she has had to two bedrock principles. According to Rain the first is protecting the citizens of St. Lawrence County, and the second is “doing so with a constant eye on fiscal responsibility.”
She says the approach to achieving these principles requires daily good judgment by a team of experienced assistant district attorneys.
“Simply stated, experienced prosecutors save money,” she said.
Rain said she has already saved the county money since she took over as district attorney.
“In the first quarter alone, as your district attorney, my office came in $52,000 under budget. These savings would not have been possible without an experienced team of Assistant District Attorneys, committed to protecting the citizens of St. Lawrence County, 24/7.”
Rain says experience is required to fight the influx of drugs and crime throughout the county.
“In order for my office to avoid constantly losing talented individuals to private practice, assistant district attorneys must be provided with a career path that adequately compensates them for their skills, commitment, and experience,” she said in her release. “The constant turnover seen within the previous district attorney’s office was not only inefficient but costly. Plainly stated, constant turnover costs St. Lawrence County money.”
Rain said that over the last five months, she has seen “first-hand the talent and selfless dedication by my team of Assistant District Attorneys I have been fortunate enough to recruit.”
She said the attorneys put in hundreds of unpaid hours, including long nights and weekends.
“These attorneys see prosecution, not as a job, but as a career in public service,” she said.