Ah, the post everyone has been waiting to see this week. The Madison County Board of Supervisors voted to raise the salary of County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Hancock this week. The Clarion-Ledger reported Tuesday:
Madison County's prosecuting attorney, on the job for a month, received a $28,500 raise Monday.
Pamela Hancock, appearing before the Madison County Board of Supervisors Monday morning, asked that her salary match that of county judges, pursuant to Mississippi code 25-3-9 which states, in part, what a county attorney “may” receive for services.
The supervisors approved Hancock’s request unanimously, without question.
Hancock, who was earning an annual salary of $92,000, will now earn $120,500 annually. Her predecessor, Alan Philips, earned $92,000.
Hancock asked that the raise be retroactive. The request was denied due to legalities.
District 1 Supervisor Sheila Jones, an attorney herself, said it’s her understanding that Hancock is working full-time as the prosecutor.
“A full-time lawyer in that position, which is what she has presented to me that she is, that salary doesn’t sound out of line,” Jones said.
District 3 Supervisor David Bishop said the raise was within the law.
“It was supposed to be done a couple of years ago,” Bishop said. “Her pay is set to what the judges are… we just want to stay in line what the statute and other counties and other prosecuting attorneys and things of that nature.” Rest of article.
However, this really got the newspaper worked up as Executive Editor Sam Hall devoted space on its editorial page to the raise so he could tell us what he really thought:
In case you missed it, the Madison County supervisors decided to give the county prosecuting attorney a 30-percent raise after only one month in office. More troubling, they did so without asking any questions and without any discussion. Her request was simply followed by a motion, second, vote and unanimous passage.
How in the world is that even close to being fiscally responsible?
County Prosecutor Pamela Hancock, who I'm sure is a fine attorney, was elected to her office knowing that it paid $92,000. That must not have been good enough, so she requested another $28,500....
Here's what state law says (emphasis added):
The Board of Supervisors of Madison County, in its discretion, may employ the elected county prosecuting attorney on a full-time basis during his or her term of office and MAY pay compensation to the full-time prosecuting attorney in an amount of not more than ninety percent (90%) of the annual compensation and salary of the county court judges...The law doesn't say SHALL. The law says MAY. So supervisors were under no obligation to provide such a raise....
Here's what gets me the most. The new majority on the board came into office saying they would be fiscally responsible and protect against wasteful spending. They had reason to say that because of an enormous amount of money being paid to certain contractors. So, what, their definition of "fiscally responsible" is to drop $30K on a pay raise without once questioning the wisdom behind it?
If that's not hypocrisy, I don't know what is. Rest of blog post.
Kingfish note: That was the news, now for the commentary. 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. Ms. Hancock advertises on this site and was the first sponsor for JJ. However, JJ is not ignoring this story. The newspaper story and critique was published above in full glory for everyone to read. They would have been posted sooner but JJ had filed several public records requests and was awaiting the records requested. JJ will play devil's advocate and publish some additional facts. Take a look at how other county prosecutors are paid and supported in the tri-county area.
Rankin County Prosecuting Attorney Richard Wilson makes $120,500 per year (the statutory maximum). He also gets an assistant prosecutor. However, Rankin County had to get permission from the legislature to hire the assistant prosecutor. Luckily for Mr. Wilson, the legislature favored Rankin County and changed the law so he could make the hire:
Rankin County pays its prosecuting attorney the $120,500 and provides him with an assistant prosesuctor. Hinds County is a more complex operation.
The Hinds County prosecuting attorney's office* paid salaries of $275,594 in 2015. The salaries are posted on a spreadsheet below that was obtained through a public records request. The county paid $55,559 to Sherri Flowers Billups and the remainder to eight assistant part-time prosecutors. Assistants that apparently also get benefits. The county also paid $11,875 to Ms. Billups for office rent as she leases office space on Amite street for her private practice. The county paid another $8,000 for her office equipment and expenses. Total 2015 bill for the Hinds County Prosecuting Attorney, staff, and her office expenses: $295,265.
Ms. Hancock is paid less and supported less when compared to Rankin and Hinds county prosecuting attorneys. They get staff, she doesn't. She has no assistant prosecutor although she does have an administrative assistant. Just an office that is staffed solely by her and her assistant.
However, she knew these facts when she ran for the job. Fair enough. As stated earlier, she is a big girl and can handle the criticism for asking for a raise. Mr. Hall (whom I respect) said it was hypocrisy for her to ask for a raise when she campaigned for the job. Fair enough. It is also fair to point out what other offices are paid and what support they receive from their respective counties.
However, it is nice to see the Clarion-Ledger finally paying attention to lawyer fees. The newspaper has done an admirable job in recent years reporting on outrageous government spending. JPS salaries, MDOC contracts, consultants, and other such stories have made the pages of the state newspaper. This website has linked some of these stories and complimented the newspaper for its reporting on the issues. However, there is one glaring exception to its coverage of government spending and it is where the real sweetheart deals occur: legal fees and lawyers.
It is nice to see the newspaper reporting on a raise for a county prosecutor. Does this mean it will report on the $750,000 to $1 million a year paid to lawyers at the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority? Will the newspaper report on the lawyer fees associated with the $118 million bond refinance for the Jackson Public School District last year, all $600,000? The two sets of lawyers retained by JPS, Dorian Turner and Joanne Shepherd, are a good subject to cover as well as no other school district has two sets of permanent lawyers. Then there is the million-dollar fee paid to Precious Martin and the Priesters on the Motorola settlement with Hinds County. One can hope the Clarion-Ledger is turning over a new leaf and will scrutinize other mucho fees paid to lawyers.
*Hinds County calls the position the "County Attorney" but it will be called "county prosecuting attorney" in this post for simplicity's sake.
Note: Sorry for the misalignment of the spreadsheet posted below. It is hard to embed spreadsheets into a readable format.