WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said his staff is not getting paid enough, so he is pushing for a salary increase as cases pile up.
Bennett says, on average, his attorneys are handling about 148 cases. He said it’s too much to handle on their current salary. According to a study Bennett cited in his presentation to the county commissioners, Sedgwick County wages are falling thousands of dollars short when comparing wages to other counties and states.
“The system isn’t broken. It breaks to indifference because we don’t pay judges enough, we don’t pay public defenders enough, prosecutors enough, cops enough, everyone who is involved in the system we need to have good people come every day and give their best to the effort for this process to work,” said Bennet.
Bennett said the majority of his 55 attorney positions are not paid enough. Each year, employees get a 2.5% salary increase, but he said that increase is falling behind.
“I’m losing people now with 10 and 15 years of experience. They are just looking around and going I’m killing myself here working the hours I’m working,” Bennett said. “These are very intense cases, and I’m getting paid 20 to 30 grand, I can go to another place with half the stress and get paid $30,000 more that’s no brainer.”
Bennet said when experienced attorneys leave, the caseload falls on everyone else. The mass volume of cases then impacts the rest of the judicial system.
Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter weighed in on the matter.
“We can arrest them all day long and put them in jail, but if the other side of the system is not keeping up, it’s not going to work because sooner or later there has to be a release valve which means sooner or later some of these people are gonna get out of jail,” Sheriff Easter said.
County commissioners said they are seeing problems with keeping and retaining quality employees. They blame previous county leaders for the issue; however, they are looking at the budget.
“We need people who are committed to this work and do it the right way,” said Bennett.
County commissioners are also looking into a program to help employees pay off their student debt.
Bennett said many of his attorneys start work with about $80,000 of debt.
For more information on Marc Bennett’s presentation, click here.