Pay hike OK’d for post of prosecuting attorney

By EVAN YOUNG

The St. Louis County prosecuting attorney will reap two raises during the elected official’s next term.

The County Council voted 6-0 last week to give final approval to a bill granting the prosecuting attorney an 11-percent salary increase on Jan. 1, 2011, and another 6-percent raise on Jan. 1, 2013.

The position’s salary will increase to $150,000 from $135,000 in 2011 and to $160,000 in 2013.

The measure subsequently received County Executive Charlie Dooley’s signature of approval.

First District Councilman and Chair Hazel Erby, D-University City, abstained from voting on the measure last week. She also abstained the week before, when the bill was up for perfection.

At the time, Erby said the prosecuting attorney deserved a raise, but felt she could not support the legislation because county employees didn’t receive raises this year — due to a pay freeze — and may not receive one in 2010 either.

Fourth District Councilman Michael O’Mara, D-north county, originally introduced the legislation at the request of Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch.

McCulloch recently said his salary is considerably less than those of prosecuting attorneys in similar counties around the country.

He specifically compared it with the pay of the prosecuting attorney in Baltimore County, Maryland, which is $204,000.

The raise request received support from Sixth District Councilman Steve Stenger, D-south county, who called the pay increases “reasonable.”

McCulloch was paid $65,000 when he first was elected prosecuting attorney in 1991. He has received a raise during each subsequent term in office.

By law, approved pay increases for a county-elected official can’t take effect until the start of the office’s next term — Jan. 1 — after the election.

McCulloch has run unopposed for re-election since 1998.

Historically, the prosecuting attorney’s salary has been only about $5,000 less than that of the county executive — the only other countywide elected official. The two positions, therefore, tend to receive pay increases concurrently.

But Dooley, whose salary is $140,000, isn’t going to request a raise for the next county executive term, his spokesman said recently. With the passage of O’Mara’s legislation, the prosecuting attorney’s salary will surpass the county executive’s beginning in 2011.

The bill also amends the county code section on the prosecuting attorney’s retirement plan.

Under the previous language, if the prosecuting attorney were eligible for benefits under a non-county operated retirement plan, for “periods of prior service,” his or her benefits under the county’s civilian and police officer retirement plan would be reduced each year by the same amount received from the non-county plan.

The bill changes the code so “participants eligible to participate in a retirement plan not operated by the county for periods of prior service as a prosecuting attorney … shall have their benefits under both the civilian employees retirement plan and the police officer retirement plan for the same periods of service reduced each year by one-third.”