District attorney gives employees pay raises after election

District Attorney Tommy Rountree confirmed Monday that he authorized pay increases for all seven staff members of the district attorney’s office after the runoff election. Six of the increases had an effective date of June 1. The seventh was retroactive to October of 2009. Increases went to all employees except Rountree himself, he said.

Rountree answered questions concerning the raises following a call to The
Blount Countian
challenging the propriety of the raises near the end of the present term when increases will deplete the budget for the incoming administration. Salaries for the period October 1 through mid-January will come from fiscal year 2010-2011 funds, which will be used for the remainder of the fiscal year by the new administration. Local (non-stateprovided) discretionary funds are also used to support salary increases.

Rountree said he authorized the raises and said he was within his authority to do so. He said they were cleared with the Office of Prosecution Services and with the state examiners office.

He said that the amounts given were as follows: raises at a rate equivalent to $5000 annually to all except one employee, beginning June 1 and continuing through the last day of the current administration, Jan. 17, 2011. The assistant district attorney (supervising) received an amount equivalent to an annual increase of $14,000, retroactive to October of 2009, Rountree said. He will continue to be paid at that rate throughout the current term of office.

Rountree said pay increases are normally given at this time of year, adding that a pay increase was not given in 2009 due to budget constraints. He said he had told employees at that time that he would “take a look at the salary situation as budget considerations allow” and address their salaries later.

Rountree said his staff has done a solid job during his term of office in collecting $3.5 million in revenues from a variety of local sources including bond forfeitures, property condemnations, restitution, recovery, and past due fines, fees, and assessments. A portion of those funds is used to support operation of the district attorney’s office.

“Our people have done a good job, and we have the money to pay them. They’re competent and hard-working, they haven’t had a raise since 2008, and I’m going to pay them the money they’ve earned and that they deserve,” he said.

Referring to the $14,000 increase, Rountree said the individual had been working in a part-time (75 percent) capacity up until October of last year. In October, he began working full time, but continued to be paid at a rate of threequarters of full-time compensation for the job. The retroactive pay increase was a way to compensate him for the extra time spent on the job since October, when he was being paid at a reduced rate for full-time work. The increase was from a rate of $83,000 per year to $97,000 per year, he said.

The Blount
posed this question to Rountree: How do you respond to the accusation that giving pay increases this large cripples the ability of the next administration to effectively staff and manage the district attorney’s office and as such does a disservice to the county and its citizens?

“First of all, the discretionary funds of the DA’s office don’t belong to the incoming DA. They belong to the DA in office. I am the DA in office until January of next year, and I’m going to use those funds as appropriate in providing services from this office. Between now and the time I leave office, I have a responsbility to maintain adequate services of law enforcement and prosecution. I’m going to do that. My responsibility does not include by law or otherwise leaving a big nest egg for the incoming DA. I have pledged to her to cooperate with her and provide the basis for a smooth transition, and I will honor that pledge.”

Rountree said he had pledged to support the drug court currently being formed with an allocation of $37,000 from discretionary funds. He said he has also approved an allocation of $7000 to support adding a third drug dog to the sheriff’s department, has provided funds to support training for sheriff’s department officers, contributed funds to upgrade facilities at the Blount County Correctional Facility and funding to improve facilities at the children’s advocacy center.

The Blount Countian
was unable to reach incoming district attorney Pamela Casey for comment before going to press Tuesday afternoon.