DA’s office to increase wages | PostIndependent.com

DA’s office to increase wages

Pete FowlerGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. The requested 2008 budget for the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office includes salary increases for all staff.And without a special funding request that was made this year, the budget will even be lower than in 2007.The funding was for an electronic case management system the DA’s office plans to move to by December or January. With the new system, prosecutors could go to court with only two things: their statute books and their laptops. Thousands of pages of discovery or evidence could be sent out electronically rather than with all the associated paper and copying, according to District Attorney Martin Beeson. The office plans to keep hard copies for another six to 12 months to ensure nothing is lost in the switch.

The DA’s office received $168,000 for this year in county funding toward the electronic system. Not requesting funding for it in 2008 allows the DA’s office to decrease its overall budget while boosting pay and increasing some other expenses, Beeson said.Prosecutors still can go to the Front Range and find higher pay with a lower cost of living and all the amenities of a larger city. There is still a bit of a gap in salaries.”We’re closing that gap,” Beeson said. “We’re becoming more competitive.”Beeson said Front Range offices start deputy DAs at about $50,000 a year, and this year the local district attorney’s office started two county court deputy DAs at $45,000 a year.In the requested budget is a 10 percent salary increase for all staff. It works out that 6 percent would be for the cost of living, and 4 percent would be distributed based on merit. Wages were budgeted at $1.27 million for 2007. The 2008 request puts them at $1.39 million. The total is distributed among 12 attorneys, two investigators, three office staff and seven legal assistants. Beeson’s salary doesn’t increase. He said it’s set by statute at the beginning of his term.”I’m excited about the prospects and the future of who we can attract to come here if and when a position does open up,” he said.That’s a likely scenario. Beeson said he may ask for funding for another prosecutor in mid-2008 to handle increasing caseloads. The state decided to appoint another judge to the district in July for the same reason.”We’re experiencing an influx of population,” Beeson said. “It’s natural that we’re going to have an increase in crime.”Through the end of June this year, the DA’s office filed 3,696 cases from traffic violations to felonies and projects a 7 percent increase over 2006. Garfield County continues to carry the highest caseload in the 9th Judicial District, which also covers Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties.According to the 2008 request, 70 percent of the cases come from Garfield county, roughly equal to the proportion of population when compared to the other two counties.Beeson said transitory workers who aren’t rooted in the communities are linked to an increase in drug cases. He said the oil and gas industry represents a portion of this phenomenon. But he didn’t want to single that industry out.”I don’t believe it’s any different from any other in terms of bad apples,” he said. “That’s where an influx of population is coming from.”But filings represent only a part of cases in the courts. There are always things like probation revocations and post-conviction motions. Among other big events, the DA’s office expects this year’s homicide case and an arson trial set for January to be long and costly. A cold homicide investigation that’s 10 years old is on the verge of producing an arrest and filing of charges, according to the budget request. That will involve extraditing the suspect from another country. Beeson said he couldn’t disclose details of the case at this time.The 2008 budget request totals about $2.41 million, down almost $45,000 or about 1.8 percent from 2007. It will have to undergo final approval from each of the three counties.”The (county) commissioners are very forward thinking in making these compensation packages livable and competitive,” Beeson said.Wage increases lead to a better office doing a better job for the public, and the office operated under budget last year and is operating under budget this year, he said.Post Independent reporter Dennis Webb contributed to this report.Contact Pete Fowler: 945-8515, ext. 16611pfowler@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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