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St. Lawrence County assistant district attorney raises will be debated

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CANTON — Raises for St. Lawrence County assistant district attorneys are likely to come up again at a June 2 meeting of the Board of Legislators, with no obvious consensus in sight.

District Attorney Mary E. Rain came to the board in February after she took office with a plan on increasing salaries, making more efficient use of space, centralizing her office and having the police handle some of their own prosecutions.

Ms. Rain is a Republican, yet many Democrats on the board have rallied to support her while Republicans take a dim view of spending money without more of their own input.

Finance Committee Chairman Frederick S. Morrill, D-DeKalb Junction, has worked with Ms. Rain on increasing the salaries of her assistant district attorneys and finding more courthouse space for her office.

“There’s no secret deal,” Mr. Morrill said. “I like her plan. I like the fact that she had a plan. I think we need to pay what it takes to get our DA what she says she needs. I respect what she’s accomplished. If it’s working, it can save us hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Mr. Morrill pointed to recent jail inmate numbers in the 140s instead of the 160s from a few months ago. He also cites major arrests made recently under Ms. Rain’s watch as evidence that her administration is getting the court system moving.

Mr. Morrill presented legislators with proposed salary hikes for ADAs that range from 13 percent to 23 percent. Chief Assistant District Attorney David A. Haggard’s salary would go from $80,816 to $98,575, making him more highly paid than any department head. The raises would total about $48,000.

The issue was tabled for more research and for a legislative committee on management salaries to consider its own recommendation. A report from the New York State Association of Counties on the cost of providing prosecution and indigent defense in other counties was not helpful, because it looks at overall costs, not average salaries.

County Human Resources Director Christopher S. Boulio determined that the region’s average ADA salary is $63,352. For public defenders, it is $57,243.

St. Lawrence County’s average ADA salary is $60,396. This would climb to $62,944 if the proposed changes are approved. For public defenders, the county average salary is $62,780.

In Jefferson County, the chief ADA has a salary of $92,405 with 17 years of service, while in Franklin County the chief ADA has a salary of $88,000 with 14 years of service.

Mr. Boulio’s research, however, leaves out several other nearby counties, where average salaries for ADAs are higher, Mr. Morrill said.

Maybe so, but Mr. Morrill downplays those figures. “While we may want to compare locally, we compete statewide,” he said. Mr. Morrill acknowledged he does not have the support of all Democrats on the board.

Separately, the county management salary committee has a proposal of its own. But Legislator Alex A. MacKinnon, R-Fowler, wishes not to disclose it. “I don’t want to put it out now until the full board has seen it,” he said. “It’s been tabled to that night and we’ll see what happens.”

Legislator Stephen M. Putman, D-Canton, the committee’s only Democrat, revealed that the recommendation called for an salary increase, but not one that reaches Mr. Morrill’s figures.

Mr. Putman said he initially agreed with committee members who were present on the recommendation.

But he later learned that they may not have learned the whole story on talks Ms. Rain had with county officials about appropriate salary step levels for the ADAs.

“None of that information was presented to the committee,” Mr. Putman said. “This is a little troubling. I think it will just play out among the 15 legislators. I don’t know how I will come down.”

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