By ERIN BLASKO - Follow me @ErinBlasko
South Bend Tribune Staff Writer
11:06 PM EDT, August 14, 2012
The St. Joseph County Council on Tuesday upheld a veto by the Board of Commissioners of an ordinance that would have provided raises to 29 deputy prosecutors in the county.
Five council members ... Mike Hamann, Rafael Morton, Cory Noland, Bob McCahill and Mike Kruk ... voted to override the veto, but four ...Mark Catanzarite, Dan Herbster, Mark Root, and Dale DeVon ... voted to uphold it.
A two-thirds majority, or six votes, is required to override a veto.
The ordinance, which would have provided raises totaling a combined $46,540 to 29 midlevel deputy prosecutors, had passed the council by the same vote in July, with Catanzarite, Herbster, Root and DeVon opposed.
But the Board of Commissioners subsequently vetoed the ordinance by a vote of 2-1, with Bob Kovach and Andy Kostielney in favor and Dave Thomas opposed, sending it back to the council for an override vote.
County Prosecutor Mike Dvorak requested the raises in June in an effort to reduce turnover among deputy prosecutors ... and, in particular, midlevel deputy prosecutors ... in the prosecutor's office.
He noted that between October and March alone, five midlevel deputy prosecutors had left the office for higher-paying jobs elsewhere, including four who left for other public sector jobs.
And he presented evidence showing the county's deputy prosecutors are paid less, on average, than most other public sector deputy prosecutors in the state.
But some members of the County Council questioned the timing of the request, noting that matters related to compensation are typically addressed during the budget process, not midyear.
And Commissioner Bob Kovach, for his part, argued that raises should be given across-the-board, to all county departments, or not at all -- and certainly not in a "piecemeal" fashion.
Reacting to Tuesday's vote, Dvorak said, "It's unfortunate the councilmen didn't recognize the urgent need," adding, "The two commissioners and four councilmen (who voted against the raises) truly put the community at risk of having inexperienced prosecutors in the courtroom."
Nonetheless, Dvorak said he hopes the County Council and Board of Commissioners will agree to include the raises in the 2013 budget, as his office has proposed.
"I hope they recognize that prosecuting attorneys are law enforcement," he said, "and truly give priority to public safety."
Staff writer Erin Blasko:
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