Emergency prosecutor pay raises suffer setback

A warning was sounded today that St. Joseph County is in a bonafide public safety emergency.

The words failed to convince the elected St. Joseph County Commissioners.

“I can’t think of any more extraordinary circumstances that would constitute an emergency than losing five attorneys within a five month period,” said St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak.

This so-called emergency is about experienced deputy prosecutors leaving their jobs in St. Joseph County for better paying jobs elsewhere.

That arguably leaves the public in a risky position when it comes to closing criminal cases. “What policemen do on the streets is important, and what prosecutors are able to do in a courtroom is equally important. Because what the policemen do on the streets in effecting an arrest isn’t going any further than arrest if we don’t have skilled and competent trial lawyers in the courtroom,” said Prosecutor Dvorak.

Today, Dvorak went to bat for 29 of his deputy prosecutors—seeking emergency mid-year pay raises ranging from one to ten percent.

Funding the raises would have taken another $90,000 a year out of the county coffers. Today, the St. Joseph County Commissioners voted two to one to reject the request. “Those voting against it said we don’t want to do this because its mid-year, none of those voting against this assured me that at the end of this year, for next year’s budget there would be that money there,” said Dvorak. “It’s also important to note that there was never an argument that there isn’t money in the budget to fund this.”

Dvorak will now take the matter back before the county council which did approve the raises. The council would essentially have to secure enough votes to override the veto of the commissioners.

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