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Another Budget Appeal Filed over BEC Assistant County Attorney Pay

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The Blue Earth County Attorney's Office has prepared another budget appeal over the salaries of assistant county attorneys.

The latest move involves appealing the pay of assistant county attorneys under the 2014 budget set by the county.

Once again, the Blue Earth County Attorneys Office is challenging the county budget--saying the compensation for assistant county attorneys is too low.
"In fact at this point in time, we are paid $11,000-12,000 less than Nicollet County, and Nicollet County is a county that is about half our size," said Chris Rovney, assistant county attorney.
However, county administrator Bob Meyer says assistant county attorneys are paid appropriately.
"We have a compensation system that looks at all employees in the county, and so we've operated under a pay-equity environment," Meyer said.
Rovney says caseload is a key factor in the latest budget appeal. 
"Our caseloads have increased substantially," Rovney said. "I believe last year...we filed approximately 470 felony cases and this year, it looks like we're on track to file over 700 felony cases."
Rovney says the county attorney's office is also seeking another legal assistant. He adds overall, the attorney pay issue is more than just money.
"It's not that we're just asking for a pay raise, we are asking the county board to follow the law," Rovney said.

While a district court judge sided with the county attorney's office over previous pay challenges, Meyer says attempts have been made to resolve the dispute.
"I think it's important for people to recognize we went through a collective-bargaining process with the assistant county attorneys," Meyer said. "They formed a union and we did negotiate in good faith, we went through mediation and ultimately arbitration, with an independent arbitrator ruling in favor of the county."
Right now, two budget challenges are being reviewed by the state court of appeals. Officials say the latest one will be heard in district court.

Rovney says the current salary cap for assistant county attorneys is in the neighborhood of $77,000. He adds a cap of $95,000-$100,000 would be appropriate.