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Supervisors Reject County Attorney’s Salary Proposals

By Staff | Jun 19, 2008

A proposal for raises for staff members at the Palo Alto County Attorney’s Office was rejected by the county Board of Supervisors during its weekly session on Tuesday, June 17. County Attorney Peter C. Hart made the request for salary increases for his five staff members, and answered questions regarding his office’s budget during an appearance before the supervisors. Hart opened the discussion by noting that his salary, as an elected official, was determined by the county’s Compensation Board, and voted on by the supervisors. But, under the Iowa Code, Section 331.904(4), Hart noted, “The board shall determine the compensation of extra help and clerks appointed by the principal county officers.” “I am here to ask, would you, could you please consider putting Sheree (Huberty) at $34,410 and Dawn (Jensen) up to $30,000,” Hart said. “Sheree has been here 11 years and to rehire and to retrain would be impossible at this point. Dawn has been here nine years, and Melanie (Rouse) does an excellent job at the sheriff’s office. I enjoy working with her – she’s very professional. But it’s not right to have someone hired in the last six months make more than someone who’s been here 11 years.” According to Hart, Huberty’s responsibilities in his office are immense. “She’s in charge of all the case timing, making sure everything gets filed on time, that every appearance is made. We have 265 cases that are open right now…criminal cases.” Supervisor Ed Noonan pointed out that Hart had changed the salary amounts for his staff members from what he had proposed originally in the budget process at the beginning of the year. “Is it the same amount of money?” “It’s the same amount,” Hart answered, noting he had originally set Sheree’s salary at $33,410, but had added an extra $1,000 to bring her up closer, but not over Rouse’s salary at the sheriff’s office. “What this board wants to do is to do salaries once a year, we don’t want people coming in during the year saying ‘we want to change this, we want a raise for this person, because then every other department wants to come in and say…..” Noonan said. “That’s a valid point,” Hart interjected, “But I’m concerned for my staff.” “We’re concerned for the whole thing,” Noonan said. “That’s where I’m coming from. We want to get down to doing this once a year and not having people coming in saying so and so needs a raise.” “I know, and that’s why I say I sound like a broken record and I appreciate your frustration, but I at least have to say it, I at least have to ask,” Hart acknowledged. “Well, you did ask before and we denied it,” Supervisor Jerry Hofstad reminded Hart. “I apologize for being a broken record,” Hart said, “but I’m sticking up for my staff.” “We’re not trying to pick on your staff – we’re just trying to get this down to just once a year to decide salaries.” Noonan reiterated. “It’s like a circus coming in here, we give somebody a raise, someone else comes in and says ‘Well, I do just as much work as they do, so I need just as much as they get’….It’s just a circus.” “That’s a good word to describe it,” Hart agreed. Supervisor Keith Wirtz asked if the proposed salary for Huberty was over the 2.8 percent figure approved by the supervisors at the beginning of the year. When Hart replied that it was, Hofstad noted that the board had only approved 2.8 percent. Both Noonan and Wirtz said they would be willing to revisit the issue at budget time, but Hart noted he had heard the same promises from other boards over time. “That doesn’t put my staff on the same footing with the other staff members that have been hired in the last six months, and there’s the rub” Hart explained. “Who are you talking about?” Noonan asked. “Melanie at the sheriff’s office is making $35,000,” Hart answered. “She was hired in the last six months and for somebody who has more responsibility and has been there and knows the system and is able to make it work. Those 11 years, I think, militate in favor of putting her not up to but at least $34,410.” “I stand firm,” was Hofstad’s reply. “We approved 2.8 percent and we can’t go above that,” Wirtz reiterated. “This is an opportunity for board to readdress this,” Hart said. “I was going to vote against this, but the more I think about it with Melanie and the sheriff’s office, and I know you’ve been trying to get Sheree brought up to everyone else for a long time and my opinion is that its very unfair,” Board Chair Leo Goeders said. “We’re just not doing the right thing. I’m sorry, but that’s how I feel.” As the discussion came to a close, it was apparent the board was unwilling to consider the raises. “I have to accept it,” Hart said. “I don’t have to like it, but that’s how it works, but I have to ask,” Hart said. “I need to be on record with the paper here saying this is what I need for my staff. This in an opportunity to make it right and you can take the opportunity to make it right or not.”