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Prosecutor Gains has nothing to complain about with budget

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth. Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains was incensed last week after the county commissioners reduced his operating budget by $100,000, when they could justifiably have slashed $197,670 — the amount that Gains has increased salaries in his office this year compared with 2010.

The county’s chief lawyer gave all 32 assistant prosecutors pay raises ranging from 3 percent to 22 percent. The highest amount went to Rebecca Doherty because of her promotion to chief of the criminal division.

While private sector workers have had to settle for wage and pension freezes and even givebacks in order to keep their jobs, Gains’ largess in the midst of the economic recession was seen as proof that public-sector employees aren’t in touch with reality.

Commissioners Anthony Traficanti, John McNally and Carol Rimedio-Righetti had no choice but to reduce the funding for Gains’ office. Rather than complain, the prosecutor should thank the keepers of the public purse for not taking back the entire amount of the raises.

We recommended such a move in an editorial in February when we took the prosecutor and county Engineer Richard Marsico to task for increasing the pay of some of their employees. The engineer’s office operates with money from gasoline tax, license plate fees and fines and, therefore, does not fall under the purview of the commissioners with regard to its operating budget. Marsico gave $70,242 in increases to five engineers on his staff.

Both Gains and Marsico defended their actions by saying their employees deserve more money because they make less than their counterparts in comparable government agencies, and that without such monetary sweeteners they would leave for greener pastures.

Our response to such arguments has been the same over the years: Let them.

In today’s workplace there are many highly qualified, experienced individuals who would jump at the opportunity of filling those slots.

Blinders on

So, when Gains, Marsico and all the other officeholders with blinders firmly in place try to justify pay raises in the current economic environment, we are hard pressed to sympathize.

The county prosecutor should disabuse himself of the notion that he and his employees are being treated unfairly and, therefore, a lawsuit against the commissioners is justified. It isn’t. Even if he found a sympathetic ear in some judge’s courtroom, he would lose in the court of public opinion.

It is noteworthy that on the very night the commissioners were being gentle with the prosecutor, members of Warren City Council were approving a labor contract with two police unions that contained pay freezes for three years — bringing to five the number of years the police will have gone without a pay raise.

Lawmakers also imposed a four-year pay freeze for elected and appointed officials.

That’s an example of political leadership and public service.