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Explaining the decision regarding the district attorney’s office

By Robert Doherty
Posted 10/27/21

The Sullivan County Legislature greatly respects and appreciates the hard work undertaken every day (and often in many late nights) by the staff and administration of the Sullivan County District …

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My view

Explaining the decision regarding the district attorney’s office

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The Sullivan County Legislature greatly respects and appreciates the hard work undertaken every day (and often in many late nights) by the staff and administration of the Sullivan County District Attorney’s office. Legislators wholeheartedly agree that the staff deserves to be fairly and appropriately compensated.

In recognition of such and in response to a request by the district attorney, the legislature is offering a 14 percent raise to the lowest assistant district attorney (ADA) salary level in that office, increasing the pay to $63,500. (Orange County, significantly larger, starts its ADAs at $65,000. Cattaraugus County, the most comparable in size, crime and budget to Sullivan County, starts ADAs at $59,000.)

Additionally, the legislature is guaranteeing two-percent annual raises to the four lowest-paid ADAs for their first seven years of employment. (Currently, there is no guarantee of raises at all.) Plus we’re hiring two more secretaries and providing two stipends of $2,500 each to incentivize DA employees.

This gives the DA the ability to be competitive and attractive to new hires, while making the pay structure more flexible and properly adhering to the annual budget process, as taxpayers expect. And it does not take away from the DA’s rightful ability to ask for more funding, including for higher raises, in the preparation of future county budgets.

In order to resolve confusion and reduce needless controversy, I present the following facts, culled from extensive research into this matter:

CLAIM: The legislature is disregarding the needs of the DA’s office.

FACT: The legislature last year agreed to give the DA’s confidential secretary an $8,000 raise, and this year agreed to give one ADA a $10,000 raise and another ADA a $5,000 raise.

CLAIM: The top ADA in neighboring Orange County makes $156,000 annually.

FACT: According to public records, the top ADA in Orange County (who has more than 30 years of experience) made just over $147,000 in 2021.

CLAIM: One of Sullivan County’s ADAs left Sullivan for a more lucrative ADA position in a neighboring county.

FACT: Per information gleaned in an interview, the ADA in question left for a similar position in Westchester County, which is closer to their family. Sullivan County has long lost both public- and private-sector employees to Westchester County jobs, which typically pay more, as Westchester is one of the wealthiest counties in the state (and where the cost of living is much higher, as well). It should also be noted that another ADA recently transferred to the Sullivan County Attorney’s Office for less pay. These decisions are often made for reasons other than pay alone.

CLAIM: The DA’s office appropriations represent half of a half-percent of the county’s overall budget.

FACT: Factoring in total pay and benefits, the DA’s office appropriations represent .089% of the county budget. See details below.

As of 2021 Sullivan County Cattaraugus County
Total county budget: $235,843,078 $230,825,115
DA’s office budget: $2,101,201 $1,545,719
Percent of county budget:  0.89% 0.67%
DA’s office payroll: $1,383,659  $877,740
DA’s office benefits: $615,848 $286,968
As of 2020  Sullivan County Cattaraugus County
Total Population:  78,624 77,042
As of 2019 Sullivan County Cattaraugus County
Total Arrests: 1,016  928

Robert A. Doherty is the chairman of the Sullivan County Legislature.

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