Powell defends need for raises in DA's office

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Updated: 8/20/2012 11:48 pm
Losing experienced prosecutors to other counties has become an issue, and Criminal District Attorney Matt Powell has asked Lubbock County Commissioners for staff pay raises as a solution.

"We're having guys that were offered three times what they're making now right out of law school," Powell said, "and so we don't try to compete with the private sector, but we do try to compete with comparable counties our size. And we are not there yet. We've been a long ways from there for a long time."

Powell said a Lubbock County prosecutor hired just out of law school would start at $36,000. Those with four years of experience make up to $52,000. In McLennan County, which has a somewhat smaller population, pay ranges from $60,000 to $80,000.

Powell's request is not sitting well with everyone. Defense Attorney Dwight McDonald said he expects commissioners to take a sharper look at the totals and specifics.

"If you don't ask how much that costs, certainly I would say that you are negligent and possibly derelict in your duties, and that causes concern for me," McDonald said.

Powell said that is simply not the case.

"It is my understanding that the amounts they've approved are not ten percent," Powell said."They are not even ten percent of the lawyers' salaries, much less the entire staff's salaries."

McDonald said instead of adding on to the tax rate to pay for raises, prosecutors should collect more of what is due from bonding companies.

"I don't think it is a good idea to give raises to people who aren't doing their jobs," McDonald said. "Until they collect that $306,000, you should not get a raise. That is money that could be used to offset any raise that you get."

Powell disputed that that much recoverable money is outstanding, and defended his office's record.

"we have collected hundreds of thousands of dollars for the county as far as bonds are concerned," Powell said. "He knows that. Everybody knows that. We don't get any of that money, we don't get a dime of that money, and so we're not in it for the money, we're in it to secure the defendants into the court."

Commissioners are set to vote on the new rate Sept.12. Two more public hearings will be held Aug. 22 and 27.
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