JJ received this one comment about the pay raise for the Madison County Prosecuting Attorney that has dominated the pages of the Clarion-Ledger recently:
xxxxxx- you can no longer claim the self-anointed title of journalist if you are chicken shit about covering Madison county prosecutor efforts to get raise. If this was any other person, you would be all over it with your snarky, childish criticism.
HA! Ms. Hancock is a big girl and can handle herself. One is going to take heat whenever one publicly asks for a raise. It comes with the territory and the newspaper is fulfilling its watchdog role in scrutinizing the raise. However, the state newspaper is not telling the entire story as well. The Clarion-Ledger reported on February 17:
The Madison County Board of Supervisors voted Monday to draw up a contract to limit the private law practice of county prosecutor Pamela Hancock.Ms. Hancock did issue this statement:
Hancock, who began serving her first term in January, also owns her own firm, Hancock and Associates.
Monday night, board attorney Katie Bryant Snell said that the county's statute does not say Hancock must exclusively work for the county full time, nor does the statute define full time.
However, other positions in Madison County, such as district attorney and county judges, are limited by the county and cannot privately practice law.
Snell said if the board felt Hancock was not working for the county on a full-time basis, they could classify her as part time. The annual salary for a part-time county prosecutor is $28,000. A part-time prosecutor is not provided an office or support staff by the county, Snell said.
In her role as county prosecutor, Hancock currently earns $120,500, which includes a board-approved raise of $28,500 that Hancock received at the first meeting of February.
Hancock's predecessor earned $92,853.
"Honestly, Madison County needs a full-time prosecutor," Snell told the board.
Snell then referenced the county prosecutor in Forrest County. Like Hancock, the Forrest County prosecutor maintains a private practice. According to Snell, Forrest County drew up a contract with their prosecutor to ensure she gave the county full-time hours.
"I feel like under circumstances, if Mrs. Hancock wants to maintain some sort of private practice on the side, that offers some protection for the board going forward in terms of her practice and assuring us that she is operating full time," Snell said.
Speaking to the board, Hancock listed her weekly activities for the county including court appearances and legal training for officers. Hancock said she worked 48 hours last week.
"To me full time is from eight to five, five days a week," District 4 Supervisor Gerald Steen said. "That's what I supported when you said full time."
"I wish that was what I worked," Hancock said. "I did not ever intend to mislead you. Full time to me is fully participating in the criminal process and giving the job everything that it requires. I rarely take a lunch, I work 12 (hours) a day, two and three days a week there. So I don't think I'm giving the county any less if I have to take an hour or two here or there one time since I've been there. The judges are afforded six months to wind down their private practice and no one is saying anything to them about that."
District 5 supervisor Paul Griffin said he believes elected officials should be able to work other jobs.
"Being an elected official shouldn't keep you from having a business," Griffin said. "How do you get to the point to saying she can't have another business and be full time in the position?"
Steen said he was "open to look at it" but "full time to me is not two days a week."
Hancock reiterated that she "fully participates" in the "criminal process" in the county.
District 1 supervisor Sheila Jones said it is her understanding that Hancock works full time.
"I know we're talking about part time and full time but as a lawyer I can tell you, you do what you have to do to get the work done," Jones said. "I've talked to the clerk twice now and I talked to Pammy before we had this vote, and the clerk assures me that she's there full time. In fact, according to the clerk, they actually netted $40,000 more last month than they did last year for the same month so I think she's doing something right ... she tells us she's full time, the clerk tells us she's full time, I don't know what else we have to do."
Snell told the board she would draw up a contract between Hancock and the county to define full time as 40 hours a week.
The contract will be presented at the next board meeting.
I work more than 40 hours per week as the Madison County Prosecuting Attorney, and participate in all phases of the criminal process there, accordingly I am full-time. I am also on call to the law enforcement, clerks and judges with whom I work. The Board of Supervisors acted in accordance with the law in approving the discretionary raise to 90% of that of County Court Judges.
The fact that I am allowed by law to maintain my law firm, in no way takes away from my full-time status as Madison County Prosecuting Attorney. All filings for my firm are filed through my MEC access as the sole firm owner for efficiency, accordingly, the documents cited in the article do not indicate anything other than my firm and one of its 5 attorneys are working on the case.
Kingfish note: Let's just go ahead and say I'm in the tank for Ms. Hancock. She was the first advertiser on this website and is a personal friend. The trolls are going to call me names as they are doing anyway. However, allow me to present some additional facts. This website has posted more thorough and complete information about this subject than has the Clarion-Ledger and will continue to do so. You, the gentle readers, are quite capable of reading everything and forming your own opinion. In other words, JJ trusts the readers and their judgment.
The Ethics Commission told Ms. Hancock in a November 6, 2015 letter (posted below) that she could maintain a private practice (p.4):
The Ethics in Government Laws do not prohibit a county prosecuting attorney from maintaining a private law practice. (DID EVERYONE GET THAT????). HOWEVER, a county prosecuting attorney may not use his or her position in county government to obtain or attempt to obtain any pecuniary benefit for himself or herself, his or her "relative" or "any business with which he or she is associated" as proscribed in Section 25-4-105(1) , Mississippi Code of 1972. The county prosecuting attorney could be prohibited from participating in any case involving his or her client or relative (no kidding.).
That was the Ethics Commission opinion. What does the actual law say about this matter? Section 19-23 of the Mississippi Code states:
(1)There shall be, in the counties where such an office now exists, a county prosecuting attorney, elected in the county at each general election for state and county officers. The several counties in the state shall have the right to come from under and within the provisions of this chapter in the manner hereinafter provided.As one can see, the Mississippi Code does not bar a county prosecuting attorney from maintaining a business or law practice. The newspaper article mentioned something about the increase in fees received by her office. JJ submitted a public records request for the fines and monies received by the county prosecuting attorney's office in January of the last five years as well as received in December 2015. Read the numbers for yourself:
(3), (5), (7) Election of attorneys, re-establishment of office (doesn't really apply to this discussion)
(9)The county prosecuting attorney shall possess all the qualifications of other county officers, and in addition thereto shall be a regular licensed and practicing lawyer.
(11) Duties of county prosecuting attorney. Section outlines duties and provides boundaries between the offices of the county prosecuting attorney and the district attorney.
(13) The county prosecuting attorney shall not represent or defend any person in any criminal prosecution in the name of the state, county or municipality of the county, nor shall he give any advice against the state, his county or in a criminal case against a municipality of his county, and shall not represent any person in any case against the state, his county, or in a criminal case arising in a municipal court of his county. Nothing herein shall prohibit any county prosecuting attorney from defending any person in any criminal prosecution in any county not within the circuit court district of such county prosecuting attorney.
(15) The county prosecuting attorney may be employed by the supervisors as the attorney for the board of supervisors, and may be paid the additional salary otherwise provided by law for the board's attorney, in addition to the salary of the county attorney, fixed for services as county prosecuting attorney. (Perhaps we should replace the rookie with Ms. Hancock.)
(17), (19), (21) deal with scheduling, specific counties, and procedural matters.
January 2011 $164,682
January 2012 $179,151
January 2013 $150,327
January 2014 $118,697
January 2015 $152,984
January 2016 $172,013
December 2015: $131,162
However, one month is only one month. Only time will tell whether the increase is a blip or an actual improvement over her predecessor. Then there is the matter of Gerald Steen, the supervisor who was against good government before he was for it. The same supervisor who voted for a tax increase. He made the motion to hire Rudy Warnock before he ran away from that vote. In fact, he was pretty happy hanging out with the cabal, enjoying the goodies, and giving sweetheart no-bid contracts to his friends until he got too big for his britches and got kicked out of the sandbox.
Mr. Steen had no problem with the previous tax assessor operating an appraisal firm on the side for years. The District Attorney operates a court collections firm (It does NOT do any business with Rankin or Madison counties). Then there are the constables. Several of them are full-time county employees yet Mr. Steen shows no interest in whether their elected positions and full-time jobs conflict with each other. He doesn't ask any other elected officials whether operating their private businesses means they can't work full-time for the county. Nope. Mr. Steen shows no such interest at all. One can only assume he is raising this issue because the County Prosecuting Attorney is a woman or he sees a chance to put an elected official under his thumb.
No other elected official in Madison County is required nor asked to sign a contract with the board of supervisors. The statutes do not give any power at all to define the hours for another elected official. Separation of powers, anyone? Such contracts are not asked nor expected of elected officials in Rankin or Hinds counties as well. One must wonder if this bone-headed idea is a sign that the Governor's daughter is already in over her head when she can't understand such a basic constitutional concept at $200,000 per year. The county prosecuting attorney should reject any contract unless the Sheriff, District Attorney, Tax Assessor, and Tax Collector are required to sign such contracts as well. She should also tell Mr. Steen to use this proposed contract as a four-point suppository.
Oh, and as for my commentor with no name, I've never claimed to be a journalist. What I have said repeatedly is I consider myself to be one who provides informed commentary and information in the same vein as Jack Anderson, Robert Novak, Victor Reisel, and William Safire with a dash of Winchel thrown in for flavor. A shame you can't tell the difference.
One final note: Compare the information provided by the newspaper and this website when forming your opinion.
Board votes to give new CPA a raise that is nearly $30,000.
Reports Ms. Hancock is maintaining the operation of her law firm
Board wants to make her sign a contract.
Ethics Commission opinion allowing CPA to maintain a private law practice
Fees received by Justice Court clerk for several years for a comparison
Comparison of CPA's staff, expenses, and salaries for all three counties
actual Mississippi code
Earlier post comparing counties.