DA asks for salary increases for 2013

Keywords: Poll question,

Furse wants to see higher pay for staff in the future

By Michael Maresh

Journal Staff Writer

While the current district attorney for the 22nd Judicial District asked the Montezuma County Commission for a small increase for his staff Monday morning, his successor wanted a much larger increase for the attorneys who prosecute cases.

Current DA Russell Wasley, with his successor, Will Furse looking on as a spectator, asked that the commission grant the DA’s office an overall 2.6 percent increase for 2013.

Wasley specifically asked that staff receive a 3 percent pay increase from what they are currently earning.

He told the commission his 2013 request was very conservative, and said the 3 percent increase for prosecutors was to help the office compete with other DA’s offices in other jurisdictions across the state.

Wasley said the local DA’s office would like to retain its current prosecutors by having a comparable salary.

The DA mentioned the other costs associated with running the prosecutor’s office were close to what the costs were in 2012.

He said the miscellaneous costs in the budget were designed to give his office a cushion as expert witness testimony in any case could cost around $3,000, and the state will only pay the first $16,000 of any such witness testimony.

“If costs came up we want to make sure they are covered,” he said, and added some of the increases included postage and utilities.

Wasley added that the largest part of the budget continues to be salaries. The total budgeted request is $795,157 with salaries making up $667,245 of that amount.

When asked the salary amounts for DAs on the Front Range Wasley said the average for an assistant DA was a little more than $121,000. By comparison, former assistant DA Andy Hughes was making $70,000 a year before he resigned to take a job overseas.

He also told the commission his office now has a full-time investigator, which he added has been a huge benefit.

Furse, who addressed the commission, said he felt it was necessary to increase the employee salaries and the personal costs associated with doing the job.

He said the problem with having a full-time investigator is that the position pays more than the deputy DAs who are prosecuting the cases.

“(Investigators) come here for a year, and then they leave,” Furse said.

The incoming DA said if he had been the one presenting the budget to the commission he would have asked for salary increases of 10 to 12 percent.

Commissioner Larrie Rule was not completely buying Furse’s argument that the DA’s office was underpaid, saying everyone needs more money and pointed to Montezuma County’s lower population numbers as a reason why salaries may be lower.

“You are right; everyone wants to make more money,” Furse said, but added higher salaries would likely attract experienced district attorney candidates.

“Three percent helps, but this will not (result) in any solution to the turnover or staff costs,” he said.

The commission informed Wasley and Furse it would look over the budget request.