Salary increase weighed for Prince George’s state’s attorney

March 1

Legislation that would raise the salary of the Prince George’s state’s attorney by 46 percent over several years is making its way through the Maryland General Assembly, but not without questions about whether the increase should go to the head of the office or the attorneys who try cases.

The bill, which was among County Executive Rushern L. Baker III’s legislative priorities, has been approved unanimously by the county’s House delegation — and would benefit the current county prosecutor, Angela Alsobrooks, who is running unopposed in June’s Democratic primary. She also has no announced competition in the November general election.

The incremental increases would start in 2015, bumping the state’s attorney’s annual salary from $150,000 to $195,000, a 30 percent increase. The salary would increase to $201,250 in the second year, $207,500 in the third year, $213,750 in the fourth year and $220,000 in the fifth year.

Baker said that the bill has two main goals: to close the disparity gap in salary among the Prince George’s State’s Attorney Office and offices in jurisdictions with similar-size caseloads and populations, and to attract highly qualified and experienced candidates.

Some union officials in Prince George’s and a government watchdog group said they support closing the gap in salaries. But the union officials in particular question the distribution of increases when funds available for raises are limited.

“That is one heck of a raise,” said Dean Jones, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 89 in Prince George’s. “We believe that our assistant state’s attorneys are some of the lowest paid in the state. This is not to say anything bad about the assistants who are here and the job they are doing. But how can you attract the best attorneys . . . the best rank and file . . . if their salaries are not competitive. Why aren’t our elected officials fighting for raises for them?”

Jones said that FOP Lodge 89, which represents more than 2,600 active and retired county police officers, lobbied to get raises for assistant state’s attorneys several years ago but that the efforts failed. Since then, Baker and Alsobrooks have worked to get increases for assistant state’s attorneys.

The bill was sponsored by Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s) on behalf of Baker (D). Ivey, who is running for lieutenant governor, said she had “serious concerns” about giving the state’s attorney a salary increase without doing more for the assistant state’s attorneys, who can choose to live and work anywhere. “The problem is, we are not competing regionally for a state’s attorney, but we are for the assistant state’s attorneys,” said Ivey, whose husband, Glenn F. Ivey, preceded Alsobrooks as the county’s state’s attorney.

Indeed, a few delegates raised similar questions before the House Delegation voted on the legislation Feb. 21. One delegate pointed out that the current salary for the Prince George’s state’s attorney is the fifth highest in the state and that salaries for assistant state’s attorneys are the fifth lowest in the state.

The bill was assigned to the Environmental Matters Committee, which has scheduled a hearing for Friday.

Baker declined to be interviewed for this article. His spokesman, Scott L. Peterson, said in a statement that “this bill is not about Angela Alsobrooks, this bill is about equity.”

State’s attorneys in four jurisdictions earn more than Alsobrooks. Baltimore’s state’s attorney makes $238,772, Montgomery County’s earns $199,000, Baltimore County’s earns $196,219, and Anne Arundel’s makes $155,530.

Because there are no term limits on the office, Baker’s spokesman said, there is no “good” time to introduce the bill.

John Erzen II, a spokesman for Alsobrooks, said that she “did not testify in any way on this particular bill.” Another of Alsobrooks’s representatives said before the House delegation that Alsobrooks supported Baker’s proposal.

“For that reason,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, “you cannot raise the issue of a pay raise without raising the other about whether the raise is for the incumbent.”

Jones, FOP Lodge 89 president, said that some of his members will get merit raises next year. The amount varies depending on rank and experience, he said, but none will get pay increases.

Gino Renne, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994 Municipal and County Government Employees Organization, said that next year, about 500 employees of the county library system and the Park and Planning Commission will get raises of between 3.5 and 4 percent.

“We support an increase in everyone’s earning capacity,” Renne said.

“You have to have balance. You can’t establish wage scales one way for your front-line workers and another scale for management. There should be some relationship between the two.”

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