Archived Story

Commonwealth’s attorney asks for more pay for assistants

Published 9:22am Friday, April 15, 2011

COURTLAND—Southampton County Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Cooke’s concerns are real.

He’s got nine murder cases from Franklin and Southampton County slated for prosecution with three rookie assistant attorneys. The most experienced has 18 months under her belt, while anyone with experience leaves for better pay.

Cooke also works from one of the only courthouses in the region without a security system.

“We have more violent criminals per square mile at the courthouse (on court days), and we’ve seen gang members come in the courthouse,” he told the Board of Supervisors during a Wednesday meeting to discuss the county’s $52.3 million draft budget.

“They think nothing about having a witness killed,” Cooke said.

The 2011-12 budget includes $108,000 for a security system and $78,000 to pay two employees to operate it. The draft spending plan also includes 2 percent raises for all employees, including those who work in the commonwealth’s attorney’s office.

Cooke is concerned about the salaries paid to his three assistant attorneys, two of whom drive an hour to work and one who drives 1½ hours while paying nearly $4 a gallon for gas. With the proposed 2 percent pay raise, the most experienced assistant attorney will make $59,876 next year. The other two will be paid $46,914.

At that rate of pay, it’s hard to keep assistant attorneys on staff, Cooke told supervisors.

“Each is young, inexperienced and they’re all working hard and doing a fine job,” he said. “We have become a training ground for inexperienced attorneys.”

Recently, one left for a job that paid $20,000 more a year; two left for similar jobs that pay $10,000 more a year.

Supervisors made no response to Cooke’s concerns.

County Administrator Mike Johnson said Thursday all positions are assigned grades and a salary range. A market study of on what the county pays its employees was done in 2005 or 2006.

The county would address the pay for all offices before making any changes, Johnson said.

  • FromHere

    I don’t know of but one that lives on the river, skooch, so I gotcha. Could be putting his “expertise” to a much better use.

    Suggest Removal

  • skooch

    It is a issue with a Deputy who lives on the river patrolling his own wake zone. He sets in his living room and watches for boats that come thru the wake zone faster then he thinks they should. He then rushes over to the parking lot and give them a ticket The County collects $30.00 plus $90.00 for Court cost. Seems like his time could be better spent.

    Suggest Removal

  • FromHere

    When did we get so many cases that the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office needs so many assistants? Not complaining – just asking a question.

    Suggest Removal

  • Iraqvet

    This is an ongoing problem for Southampton County, Three employees that live in Southampton recently left to work for Isle of Wight County, and it is unfortunate for the county to loose good employees who have a vested interest. The answer that Mike Johnson gave is the same everytime the one about the salary study, that is unrealistic! Mike is a very intelligent man and does well for the county but personnel matters are not his strongpoint whatsoever. Personally I would be embarrassed to have employees that work for and live in the county leave to go work for another county. One more thing to keep in mind, all seven supervisor seats are up for election this year.

    Suggest Removal

  • FromHere

    Sheriff’s department does have officers in the courtroom when court is in session. Perhaps they should let the game wardens tend to river business and deputies tend to court, jail, civil and criminal issues not related to hunting and fishing unless called upon for help. Seems like a management issue to me.

    Suggest Removal

  • grandma2

    The abpve article stated: “three assistant attorneys, two of whom drive an hour to work and one who drives 1½ hours while paying nearly $4 a gallon for gas.” O.K., in other words these 3 assistant attorneys are not local residents living in SoCo and so HAVE NO INTENTION OF STAYING HERE!!! It doesn’t matter what their pay is in that case, does it?

    Suggest Removal

  • skooch

    Maybe the Sheriff’s office should have a Deputy at the Courthouse on Court day. They have enough Deputies for one to be down at the 258 Boat Ramp giving tickets to Boaters going through wake zones so I guess one at the Courthouse shouldn’t be a problem.

    Suggest Removal

  • dkh

    Margaret I will agree with you on every point you make except “LOCAL” schoolteacher. They might be smart enough in Suffolk to pay an employee that shapes the minds of our children a salary like that quoted in this article…but in Southampton County, the salary is not near that….and no I am not a teacher.

    Suggest Removal

  • Nemo1

    Hold on one second. If Mike Johnson raises the taxes to compensate for a 2% increase in pay for COUNTY employees then why is Eric Cooke was for raises? 2 pay raises in 1 years. THATS DOUBLE DIPPING!! Thats not going to fly!!!

    Suggest Removal

  • newbie

    Maybe SoCo. should instead consider offering these assistants a housing cost subsidy contingent on these employees residing locally, instead of 1+ hours away. That solves the gas money issue and would also result in these folks supporting the local economy more, which only seems fair since it is the local economy supporting them with employment.

    Suggest Removal

    • margaretu

      Working at a basically thankless job, these lawyers with seven years of higher ed are making the salary of a local public school teacher. Southampton would be wise to check with other localities that realize the benefits of supplementing generously the state’s paltry wages for ass’t commonwealth’s attorneys. Suffolk has an experienced staff of nine assistants(some with 20+ years in the office) because the city is wise enough to know it’s a waste of taxpayer money to arrest and charge offenders if you can’t follow thru with punishment (incarceration). An inexperienced lawyer cannot prosecute a murder case without one or more (defendant/prosecutor) ending up back on the streets.

      Suggest Removal

Editor's Picks