Lesser-paid attorneys working for Douglas County soon will be getting a pay raise.
The County Board voted Tuesday night to approve more than $455,000 in new spending, raising the annual salaries of entry-level and lesser-paid deputy county attorneys and public defenders.
About 25 deputy county attorneys will receive raises effective June 1 of between $5,000 and $10,000 each. The raises will go toward the lower-paid lawyers. No one making $70,000 or higher will get a raise, said Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine.
"The board recognized we had to deal with this," Kleine said. "Everyone understood the situation. We will do whatever we can to maintain our budget and keep our costs as low as we can."
According to the County Personnel Office, the 6-1 vote will increase the total payroll for the Public Defender's Office by $220,000, or 8.5 percent. A breakdown was not available on how many public defenders will get a pay boost.
The payroll for Kleine's office would climb by $237,000, or 6.9 percent.
Lawyers in both offices all received 1 percent pay raises in January.
The board's decision to approve the additional midyear raises came after a group of 47 deputy attorneys backed off their plans to form a union.
The group had petitioned the Nebraska Commission of Industrial Relations in January to become a labor organization that could bargain for wages, hours and conditions of employment.
Before the vote, Kleine recognized two of his attorneys in the audience.
Sean Lavery and Cody Miltenberger have worked in his office for the past two years and both are making $45,450 — about $10,000 below the entry-level salary for deputy county attorneys in less-populated Lancaster and Sarpy Counties.
Lavery and Miltenberger will make $55,200 starting in June.
Kleine said the raises were meant to address a pay disparity between his deputy attorneys and their peers in Lancaster and Sarpy Counties.
"Our purpose is to have equity with our lower salaries in the office," he told the board. "This (salary increase) does not impact half the people in our office."
County Board member Pam Tusa cast the lone vote against the pay raises.
Tusa said she has yet to decide whether to support a property tax increase during this summer's budget deliberations to address the county's flat revenue.
"It's nothing personal," Tusa said. "You and your staff and (public defender) Tom Riley are doing an awesome job. You guys deserve raises beyond raises. ... I feel bad because I don't mean any disrespect, but I just think our spending is getting out of control, and we are not getting any new revenue coming in."
Board member P.J. Morgan said the raises beat the alternative of the attorneys forming a union and the CIR deciding the outcome of the compensation dispute. A wage and benefits study conducted by the county's personnel office found clear evidence that the pay raises were warranted, he said.
"It's the right thing to do, and it's necessary," Morgan said.
The meeting at Metropolitan Community College's South Omaha campus was the first of several traveling board meetings, part of an effort to generate public interest in Douglas County government. About 30 people attended, mostly county employees.
Contact the writer: