Floyd County, Va., prosecutor Robert Boswell is the kind of boss many employes would adore.

When he became convinced his secretary, his only full-time worker, was underpaid, he went to bat for her -- to the point that he sued the state to get her a raise.

But then some would argue that Boswell, the prosecutor for the rural county 220 miles southwest of Washington, also has a special interest in the secretary: She's his wife.

While that might be a conflict of interest in some states, it's no problem in Virginia. Thanks to a quirk in the state law, it's perfectly legal for a public employe to put a relative on the public payroll -- provided they make less than $10,000 a year.

And to Boswell, it's the poor pay ($7,200 a year) that his wife is receiving that's offensive. "The matron of the jail makes $300 more than she does," she complained the other day.

He has filed suit against the State Compensation Board, which set his wife's salary, arguing she should get $9,500.

Boswell himself earns $20,000 a year as the part-time prosecutor of Floyd, a town of 487 which one resident yesterday described as "just a speck on the map along the Blue Ridge Parkway."

According to the Associated Pres, Boswell said he was trying to get a raise for his wife, who also serves as his legal assistant, because she is "probably the only person I could get to work at that salary."

Boswell added that his wife needs only a few credits before completing paralegal training, which will increase her contribution to the prosecutor's office.

Two years ago Boswell filed a similar suit against state officials. It worked then getting Boswell an out-of-court settlement that raised his salary from 13,097 to $14,000 and his wife salare from $4,280 to $6,000.

Floyd County Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Devore is to appoint a special panel of three Circuit Court judges to hear Boswell's latest suit.