Thursday, February 4, 2016

We report, you decide: Prosecuting attorney's raise.

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. 


Anonymous said...

County prosecutors making $120,000 is ridiculous, even if they are full time with no private practice. They prosecute speeding tickets, minor misdemeanor crimes, and county youth courts. In comparison, assistant district attorney work full time and are forbidden to otherwise practice law, and prosecute capital murder, murder, armed robbery, armed carjacking, etc., and make a maximum of $106,000 IF they have 15 years or more experience as a practicing attorney.

Burke said...

The Clarion Ledger has a policy one might call "Affirmative Inaction" when it comes to Hinds County/Jackson attorneys who do business with the city or the county. There have been exceptions, but not many. Of course, the Clarion Ledger has given the "Establishment" a pass whether it was mostly white back in the day, or mostly black now.

Bottom line: Keep up the good work, KF.

Anonymous said...

I personally don't care what she or any other prosecutor makes. To justify the raise, Ms. Hancock reportedly advised the Madison Board of Supervisors that she was no longer doing work as a private attorney. If she is truly giving up her private practice then that truly does justify the raise. The real issue would be if she, or her office, is also continuing to take private cases.

Anonymous said...

Hall and Co whiffed on the Epps scandal until after the fact. Though they worked mightily afterwards to purposefully mislead readers by making repeated allusions that they had a connect-the-dots role in bringing Epps down. Hall and Mitchell didn't set the fire and nor did they even smell a hint of the smoke.

Go ahead and respect Hall but it sure as heck can't be for the bang up job he isn't doing. Let us know when he really works to drain the corruption cesspool in Jackson and Hinds.

Meantime I'll ponder their efforts to disguise burning of Front Page Top-of-the-Fold inches with NOTHING but photos and graphic art as real bonafide news.

Anonymous said...

"If she is truly giving up her private practice then that truly does justify the raise." That's a ridiculous statement. One has nothing to do with the other.

Anonymous said...

Watch and see if Pammy "Sally Struthers" Hancock actually gives up her private practice.

Check her tax returns next year.

Ill bet you a million she doesnt give up her practice.

Anonymous said...

I'm in agreement with Sam Hall on this one, but don't believe she should have to give up her practice if the law doesn't require. Nothing wrong with asking the BOS for the raise. I blame the BOS for giving it to her without scrutiny.

Anonymous said...

Smart lady, Alan Philips, not so smart man.

Anonymous said...

Hancock is not worth 120k a year, she is ripping off Madison county..

Anonymous said...

Agree with 12:50....nothing against Pammie this is another BONE HEADED decision from the new and improved "Fiscally Responsible" MCBOS. Doesnt hurt to have an attorney as a board member since they all have their hands in one anothers purses and pockets.

Anonymous said...

She knew what the job paid when she ran for the office. elections change people. It becomes all about self and greed after the election. I guess the Supervisors did not want to hold her feet to the fire. Favors in exchange for favors. You scratch my back and I will scratch yours when you need me to not prosecute a friend or political crony or file a bogus prosecution for political considerations.

Anonymous said...

her practice is alive and well. and still taking clients. hey, if you see a gravy train.....

Ms. Hancock is a big girl said...

So does leaving private practice mean that her associate attorneys will continue to perform most of her duties at her law firm?

Pam has just been showing up for court dates.

I can’t see how her new role as prosecutor would erode her previous income.

Also, how successful of a private practice are you touting when you cross deck for 92k or 120k a year?

Anonymous said...

No need getting huffy about Pam. She didn't vote for the raise. If you don't like it then call your supervisor. Vote them out next term. They voted, they own it. Little common sense goes a long way with this discussion.

Anonymous said...

Sally Struthers answer will be:

"Lots of people work 2 full time jobs."


Yall were afraid of Rudy? Tim? Mike?


Yall got hosed!

Anonymous said...

Has she done anything since taking office other than draft her raise proposal for the BOS?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

She knew what it paid when she ran.

She also knew what it could/should pay when she ran. If it is legal to pay this amount and defendable, who among you would not have asked? (Ok - realize that nobody in the JJ commenter crowd would ever admit to doing absolutely anything that could be criticized so take back my question.)

Frankly, I have little problem with this kind of pay for a professional if they do the job correctly. I would also not have a problem with DA's/Asst DAs getting paid more in those districts where the caseload justifies it. Don't agree with the statewide system of pay that exists, but hey - I'm not in the legislature so that is above my pay grade.

If y'all want to find something to bitch about check out what clerks throughout the state get 'paid' and how it is calculated. They are the ones that are 'legally' ripping off the system and at the same time are able to practice cronyism at its best. (Not talking about the Madison County clerks but ALL throughout the state.) Until you want to start questioning that corrupt system, these others should be considered penny-ante.

Anonymous said...

@11:32, apparently an ADA somewhere, can calm it down a bit. You just got a pay raise, and you've been getting pay raises for the past 4 years.

25-3-35 of the Miss. Code says:
The annual salary of the full-time district attorneys shall be :
From and after January 1, 2013, through December 31, 2013:
From and after January 1, 2014, through December 31, 2014:
From and after January 1, 2015, through December 31, 2015:
From and after January 1, 2016:

The annual salary of the full-time legal assistants shall be not less than Fifteen Thousand Dollars ($15,000.00) nor more than eighty percent (80%) of the salary of the district attorney for legal assistants who have been licensed to practice law for five (5) years or less; eighty-five percent (85%) of the salary of the district attorney for legal assistants who have been licensed to practice law for at least five (5) years but less than fifteen (15) years; and ninety percent (90%) of the salary of the district attorney for legal assistants who have been licensed to practice law for at least fifteen (15) years or more.

ADA's are capped at:
$100,720 for 5 or less years of experience,
$107,015 for 5-15 years of experience, and
$113,310 for more than 15 years of experience.

Basically, you're wrong, @11:32. Or either your boss doesn't pay you the cap because your boss doesn't want to pay you the max. And I'm not surprised that an ADA didn't read the statute before posting because that's just kinda what they do.

Let's keep the focus on subject of this story, and leave the ADA pity party out of this.

Anonymous said...

Nothing against her, but they should have kept the salary at the previous level for at least a year and gradually increased it towards the new level throughout her term.

And as far as "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" - another pitiful rant in an attempt to get an award or get the hell out of Mississippi. He has to read JJ and other blogs, the Northside Sun and the Madison County Journal for his ideas and opinions.

Anonymous said...

5:22, I think Sam's a tool and a joke as an editor, but as soon as Fowler live-tweeted it from the meeting, Sam jumped all over it. So, criticize away, just have your facts straight.

Anonymous said...

Yeah the CL was the first to report this and Pam did not offer any comment. A simple explanation of the backlog and scope of the work would have helped people digest the necessity for the raise.

I agree with some of the other posts. It just looks like her first order of business was to milk a little more cash out of the county.

She deserves the criticism.

Madison County deserves a board that is willing to at least have a discussion when people come to them begging for taxpayer dollars no matter what it's for.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 5:22. The BOS should already have a budget in place for this year. Where will the extra money come from, fess not paid to Rudy?

But, I could be wrong. The new Board has made a lot of hiring and contracting decisions. Did they establish a new budget after coming into office, and disregard the old one. Are they on the same fiscal year as state and municipal government, October-September?

Anonymous said...

He has to read JJ and other blogs, the Northside Sun and the Madison County Journal for his ideas and opinions.

They troll JJ and the TV Newsers every single day for story ideas. Like a fine time piece they rip off KF's reporting.

Anonymous said...

Pretty bold move but it paid off, I could be criticized for 24 hours for an extra 100K every 4 years. None the less, she is the most photogenic lawyer in town.

Anonymous said...

I would imagine that Rudy and John are responsible for about half these post. Of course that is just an estimate.

Anonymous said...

A lawyer can bill a mere $100 an hour and can easily bill 1800 hours a year. That is $180000 a year. There are 2080 hours a year in a 40 hour work week.
In Mississippi, a successful, well established lawyer can bill $400+ an hour.
Plumbers are billing $90-$100 an hour. Nurses are earning $100000+ to start.
She is being paid peanuts compared to what she could earn in the private sector if she's any good at what she does at all.
You get what you pay for people. You want the best but aren't willing to pay to get the best. And, then you wonder why government doesn't work well.
The security of government work was the trade off as well as public service for the idealistic. But, now those that work even at low level positions are walking political tightropes and find it hard to feel a sense of accomplishment. Party neutrality and competence are no longer options in the current political climate at any level. Accomplishments are hard won and easily erased as power shifts.
Mr. Trump, if he succeeds, will learn that it's not just a problem of not being able to easily fire someone, but that he's not able to hire those he would want because he can't pay them enough to compete with the private sector!

Anonymous said...

And this was newsworthy why? Sounds like Sam is jealous of anyone with a salary twice his. The fact that CL is always late to the story and carries nothing but the news wire two days late shows why it's a dying business model. Sam needs to see if he can go to law school. He will need a new job shortly.

Anonymous said...

6:51 , those billing rates you listed include office overhead. Things like rent, computers, utilities telephone, assistants, secretaries etc. The actual profit may be less than half that rate. Oh, and it may be difficult to bill 40 hours a week. Administrative time, etc.

Anonymous said...

6:51's little lesson in wage surveys is totally irrelevant. Point is she's been on the job for just over thirty days, came to the podium and asked for a 25% raise and it was automatically given to her without discussion or comment. The only comments were in response to her request to make her raise retroactive to the day she took the job.

It's not about what the job ought to pay or what she might make elsewhere (she already has a private practice firm with three other lawyers on her payroll). It's about the snap judgement of the Board in granting the request with no questions asked.

It just sends a signal to the public, or at least those who care enough to attend these meetings twice a month. In fact, this is the same way the prior board handled Rudy's many requests. Axe and ye shall receive, next subject.

Anonymous said...

6 figures for 2 days of work per week? Nice job if you can get it.

Anonymous said...

One other group of lawyers left out of this discussion is the 300 or so lawyers who work for the Mississippi Attorney General's Office representing the interests of the State of Mississippi in all 82 counties in civil, criminal and administrative cases. Don't know whether anyone is aware, but all of those attorneys' salaries are capped at the salary of the AG, which is less than the DAs make. The AG's salary is set by statute at $108,960 (see MCA, 25-3-31) and no attorney in his office can earn more because of the statutory ceiling imposed by MCA, 25-3-39. Of course, many of these attorneys in the AG's office are young lawyers, but there are quite a few fine lawyers with 20 or more years of experience who earn less than Ms. Hancock or any DA or ADA with comparable experience.

Anonymous said...

10:10 Please. Some people in the AG's office probably work hard, but most of them have pretty ridiculous jobs. If anyone's interested, you can read electronic copies on the MS Sup Ct's website of the criminal appellate "briefs" the AG's office files to defend criminal convictions. Most of them are pretty ridiculous, and most post cards have more thought put into them. Any honest attorney who's done government work can tell you that some work hard for next to nothing while others do nothing for a nice salary. There's really very little connection between job descriptions/responsibilities and salaries. Ms Hancock is just playing the game. Maybe she works hard; probably doesn't.

Anonymous said...

The attorneys in the AG's office could receive more if the AG made an effort on their behalf. MCA 25-3-31 has been 'excepted' numerous times for numerous agencies and administrations. Fact is AG Hood has not asked for even a raise to get close to the cap for any of his senior attorneys - since he took office 12 years ago. Amazing that he still has some competent attorneys left - which he does along with some that dont fit that description - but the lure of continued state service has kept them there. Along with, of course, the dying market for attorneys, especially those in mid-life.

Myself - I dont agree with the assumption made by so many that say the BOS accepted Pammie's request without any discussion or forethought. I would bet that this had been discussed with individual sups well before this came to the agenda on Monday. Not that they would have violated the open meetings law cause I bet they kept it to only a couple at a time, but these things generally don't happen in a vacuum.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

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