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Deal reached on prosecutor pay; county board must approve

Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Daily Law Bulletin
by Jerry Crimmins

Cook County prosecutors and assistant public guardians are expected to get 12.75 percent cost of living pay hikes this year, according to a deal announced Monday by County Board President Todd Stroger and several county commissioners.
Prosecutors, who are non-union, had been agitating for the pay hike to make their pay equal to the public defenders, who are unionized. Public defenders got their a cost of living pay hike last year according to the terms of their union contract. ''I am pleased to give cost of living pay hikes to all non-union employees,'' Stroger said.
''I am committed to ensuring that both our union and non-union workers have wage parity,'' Stroger added.
State's Attorney Richard A. Devine stood alongside Stroger in the remarkably amicable press conference that followed several days of heated rhetoric over the issue last week.
In addition to prosecutors and public guardians, the rest of the county's non-union employees will also get pay hikes, according to the deal Stroger announced. But those workers would get a lesser percentage hike than the prosecutors and public guardians.
Stroger said the pay hikes are contingent upon the county board in its Tuesday meeting passing a resolution ''that would lay out the specific terms of the cost of living increases.''
Also appearing with Stroger at the press conference were county commissioners John P. Daley, Lawrence J. Suffredin Jr. , Michael B. Quigley, and Robert B. Steele.
Devine said prosecutors would get the full cost of living increase they have been seeking, but the prosecutors' administrative staff would get less.
''We will continue to work with the president and the commissioners to resolve that issue,'' Devine said.
Devine and the county commissioners present all thanked Stroger for helping make the deal possible.
''I want to acknowledge the leadership demonstrated by the president and these commissioners in working out a resolution that keeps good prosecutors working for the community,'' Devine stated.
Suffredin and Daley said afterward the deal envisions that prosecutors and assistant public guardians would get 12.75 percent pay hikes. It also envisions that the prosecutors' pay hikes would make their pay equivalent to that of Cook County public defenders.
The public defenders' received their pay hikes earlier pursuant to their union contract.
In the deal announced Monday, the county's other non-union employees would get a $1,000 bonus plus a 3 percent hike this year retroactive to June 1, Suffredin said.
Quigley speculated that the prosecutors could see their raises in their paychecks by September, but he said he could not be certain.
Another county official said that decision would be made after the county board passes the measure, something expected to occur on Tuesday.
''It's very important for the personnel sharing the courtroom, the prosecutors and the public defenders, to have equal pay,'' Quigley said. He said it was important ''for morale and justice.''
The deal also envisions that the non-union county employees who are not prosecutors or public guardians will get another 4.75 percent pay hike in the 2008 budget. But that 4.75 percent is contingent upon passage of that item in the 2008 budget, Suffredin said.
Asked why it seemed to take public pressure through complaints of the prosecutors to achieve this agreement, Stroger said he did not intend to commit to these pay hikes until the county had the money sufficient to pay for them.
If new funds had not recently been located for these pay hikes, the prosecutors ''would still be out there on the streets making noise,'' Stroger said.
According to Suffredin, he and commissioners Quigley and Daley in a series of meetings with top officials of the Stroger administration identified sources of funds to pay for the prosecutors' cost-of-living pay hikes and even possibly for cost of living pay hikes for all the county's 6,221 non-union workers.
Suffredin had predicted $47 million more than enough to cover all those raises could be assembled as follows: $21 million coming to the county from a major corporate bankruptcy proceeding; $4.4 million from a Rosemont tax case; $1.6 million from an insurance settlement related to the fire in county offices at 69 W. Washington St.; and $20 million set aside for cost-of-living pay hikes in the public safety budget.
Prosecutors contend that the average assistant state's attorney with seven years experience makes about $70,000 a year while a public defender with the same experience makes $75,600.
Scott Slonim, chief of training for the public defender's office, responded that ''the more typical seven-year public defender to my understanding makes right around $70,000,'' the same as the prosecutors.
He said public defender supervisors make from $7,000 to $22,000 less than state's attorney's supervisors.
Last week, Devine said prosecutors have been leaving the office this year at twice the normal rate of attrition because of the problem with their pay.
Devine also said then, if the pay hike is not granted, ''There is a real fear they will leave in droves.''
Assistant State's Attorney Robert Milan has said that Stroger had promised the prosecutors a 12.75 percent raise retroactive to 2004 to match pay increases given to assistant public defenders last year.

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