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Inside Look at Prosecutors' Payrolls

Salaries of district attorneys in Massachusetts are set by state law at just under $150,000 a year, but the DAs are free to pay assistant DAs whatever they want. As a result, ADA salaries in the state vary widely from office to office and even within a single office. In a story published this week, The Springfield Republican surveyed DAs' offices in Western Massachusetts and found staff salaries ranging from a high of $115,000 to a low of $37,500. "While some current and former prosecutors say they are compensated fairly, a greater number grouse privately that many of the hardest workers are not the highest earners," reporter Stephanie Barry writes.

Of the DAs contacted by the newspaper, only Hampden County District Attorney William M. Bennett would explain how he sets staff salaries. He looks to such factors as experience, merit, areas of responsibility and years of service, he told Barry. "If I had more money I would raise all the salaries in my office," he said. "For the responsibilities they have, they're all underpaid." Salaries make up 90 percent of his budget, he said. The top 10 earners in his office make between $90,000 and $115,000, while the lowest paid earn around $40,000.

For some, an ADA's salary is not enough to make ends meet. Michelle S. Cruz, a single mother, told The Republican that she left her ADA job, where she was earning between $50,000 and $60,000, for a job just over the state line in Connecticut, where she doubled her pay. "There's this misinformation out there that if you're an attorney you make all this money. But if you work for the state, you don't -- particularly if you work in Massachusetts and even more in Western Massachusetts," she told The Republican. "I thought I would be a career prosecutor. I loved my job, but I drive a Kia and I had to take this job to make ends meet."

The Republican's coverage includes a searchable database of salaries for the five district attorneys' offices in Western and Central Massachusetts. Last year, the Boston Herald posted a database of all state employees' salaries. At the time, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly reporter David E. Frank culled through that to find the state's highest-paid attorneys. He found "an astonishingly small percentage" of lawyers among the top-paying jobs. Among staff prosecutors, only 38 out of 700 earned more than $100,000, he found. The highest-paid lawyer on the state payroll: Richard J. Stanton, who happens to have a law degree, but earns his $363,186 salary as deputy chancellor of the UMass Medical School.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on July 30, 2008 at 12:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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