Mark Taylor received approval Jan. 11 for increasing the salaries for the Chief Deputy and Deputy Criminal Attorney positions within the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Offices.
After being sworn in as Jefferson’s newest P.A., Taylor swore in Serhiy Stavynskyy as a deputy criminal prosecutor before moving to continue his request for increased salaries within his office.
Taylor’s campaign platform involved cutting down on the number of people employed within the office, a move that would ultimately save the county at least $40,000 in salaries.
Former Prosecuting Attorney Paul Butikofer had three other attorneys in the office in addition to himself; a deputy Criminal attorney with a salary of $81,578, a part-time deputy Civil Attorney at $68,016, and a part-time deputy Criminal Attorney at $60,174. Butikofer was salaried at $99,750 for a total of $309,518 in salaries for the office.
Taylor hopes to hire another full-time criminal attorney to help cover that side of the caseload and Taylor will cover the civil caseload himself, taking the staffing down to just three attorneys total.
Rebecca Squires shared information on average salaries in Prosecuting Attorney offices throughout the state and in counties of similar size as the debate over raising the salaries within Taylor’s office continued at the Commissioners’ Meeting Jan. 11.
Taylor then shared with the public his history of communication between himself and the commissioners, which he says he initiated following the election as he began to informally search for candidates. According to Taylor, he initially found six candidates, three of which were qualified for the cases the county was currently facing.
“The county is facing some very serious cases right now with child molestation cases and one, possibly two, murder cases,” Taylor said. “Now isn’t the time to be cheap on attorneys.”
With the salaries Taylor proposed, he said the county would be saving between $44,000 and $56,000 on salaries depending on what the final offers ended up being. Ultimately, Taylor said candidates had walked away from the position due to where the salaries were currently set, as they weren’t near what market price is.
Commissioner Roger Clark stated that he was concerned about if they would have enough money budgeted in the case that Taylor may need to bring on another attorney if the caseload continues to increase and Taylor stated that he currently didn’t know what they were walking into as that information was not made known to him by his predecessor.
As they continued to compare pay rates with other counties, Taylor told commissioners that it ultimately boils down to if someone wanted to come to the area. Commissioner Shayne Young responded that desperation shouldn’t be a factor in deciding salaries.
Public Defender John Stosich stepped up to address Taylor and the Commissioners, saying he was concerned about the proposal, as changing the salaries within the Prosecuting Attorney’s office may result in the need to reassess the county’s investment in the Public Defender fund.
According to Stosich, the county could possibly lose resources from the Idaho Public Defense Commission if the county isn’t allocating the same resources to Public Defense to ensure there’s adequate and equal representation for clients that use a Public Defender. The change may require renegotiation in his office.
Taylor said that salaries for the Public Defender office is something Stosich has to budget but that the Prosecuting Attorney’s office budgeting shouldn’t impact the Public Defender’s salary budgeting.
Stosich clarified following the meeting stating that if he brought on someone with less experience in a similar position to a position in the Prosecuting Attorney’s office, he wouldn’t just seek the same pay grade, only the same step. His main concern is the county’s standing with the Public Defense Commission and not salaries.
“The issue I was addressing didn’t have to do with the salary requests but more with the budget process,” Stosich said.
Taylor also stated after the meeting that he believes the conflict during the meeting was more caused by a misunderstanding over what Stosich was trying to say.
“I ran on a platform of reconstructing and I had no say in the budget,” Taylor said. “The voters picked this… What are we going to do? Not have deputies?”
Butikofer joined the meeting via Zoom and took time to speak saying that he was able to retain attorneys at lower salaries and that Taylor knew the budget and should’ve raised concerns while they were working on the budget.
“I did,” Taylor said.
Butikofer also said that Taylor didn’t give any reassurances to his own hires and that the situation Taylor was in was his own creation. Butikofer then advised the commissioners to live within the budget.
Ashley Stallings, Program Director with Upper Valley Child Advocacy Center, then approached the commissioners to voice her thoughts on the ongoing discussion.
“I understand there are budgets and there’s jobs everyone has to do,” she said. “Elections are over. The power struggle should be up. The longer you hold off, the longer child victims suffer. They do deserve to have qualified people fighting for them.”
Stallings continued to say that she doesn’t want child victims at a disadvantage and that everyone needed to put their differences aside.
The commissioners then stated that they didn’t want to put the decision aside and that they didn’t think they were that far apart on reaching an agreement.
“Leaving this open is not a benefit to anyone,” Taylor said.
Clerk Colleen Poole stated that she believes the commissioners did not need to do a resolution to adjust the salaries as the budget would still be under for the office.
Butikofer chimed in again to say that he spoke with Weston Davis who advised to change things with a resolution.
Poole said that it wouldn’t hurt to do a resolution and Squires said they already had a resolution on the agenda for a pay change and that she could add the Prosecuting Attorney’s salary changes to that item.
The commissioners ultimately passed the pay change to make Chief Deputy salary at $84,261 and the Deputy Criminal to $74,942.
The total salaries for the Prosecuting Attorney’s office is now at $258,953 — a decrease of $50,565.