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No Raises in Seven Years Takes Its Toll on Prosecutor's Office

GREENE COUNTY, Mo. -- No raises in seven years; that is the reality facing all Greene County employees.
And you realized that if I stay here, I'll be in the exact same position in four years. Cost of living is going up, the raises are not, so I'll be in a worse position in four years that I am today.
GREENE COUNTY, Mo. -- No raises in seven years; that is the reality facing all Greene County employees.

Over the last two years, a dozen attorneys in the Greene County Prosecutor's Office have left for private practices.

Prosecutor Dan Patterson says the economics of the job have become too harsh a reality for some with no relief year after year.

If you speak to some of the attorneys who have left the Greene County Prosecutor's Office they will tell you they set out to be life long prosecutors.

But not being able to keep up with the cost of living pushed them to make new life choices.

Greene County Commissioner Harold Bengsch says there is a small glimmer of hope, however. 

For more than a decade, attorney Russ Dempsey was an assistant Greene County Prosecutor.

"There's so much built in passion into that job where you are really fighting for the victims," says Dempsey.
 
Dempsey, like other assistant prosecuting attorneys (APA), handled thousands of cases.

"That way you just learn so much so fast," says Dempsey.

APAs like this one will gain more trial experience in their first few years than some attorneys will over a career.

Dempsey says despite the camaraderie, as he is in his mid-30s not receiving a raise year after year started to take its toll.

"And you realized that if I stay here, I'll be in the exact same position in four years," says Dempsey. "Cost of living is going up, the raises are not, so I'll be in a worse position in four years that I am today." 

Greene County Prosecutor Dan Patterson laments losing attorneys with years of experience and echoes Dempsey's sentiment about family. But, Patterson says he knows these attorneys have families of their own to look out for. Five prosecutors have left this year; seven last year.

"It's more than one would like. Averages about 24 percent," says Patterson.
 
Patterson says the caseload isn't easy and becomes more when attorneys leave.

"For some of the prosecutors who are felony trial attorneys, particularly those who handle property crimes which are victim crimes they may have case loads of upward of 400 cases to try to handle at one time. Whereas the major crimes attorneys and persons unit attorneys caseloads between 150 and 200 cases many times," says Patterson.

Greene County Commissioner Harold Bengsch says there have been no raises in the county across the board and it affects keeping employees and hiring.

"We've had several candidates back out after being accepted for employment and that is the future they gave they're concerned about what the future might be for the county," says Bengsch.

Dempsey says until the county is able to offer a future, holding on to employees is going to be a difficult thing.
 
"Understand they are going to keep losing people," says Dempsey.

Bengsch says in 2013, for the first time since 2007, the county saw an increase of $1.7 million. But Bengsch also said the county is over budget in some places because of jail overcrowding and statutory requirements.

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