Quorum Court approves new investigator for Public Defender Office

Quorum Court approves new investigator for Public Defender Office

County jail employee tapped to replace retir-ing Pena

news@theeveningtimes.com

The Crittenden County Public Defender’s Office will replace an investigator who is retiring, but not at the salary hoped for.

The Quorum Court approved hiring a replacement for Raymond Pena, but balked at the $40,000 salary that Public Defender Tom Montgomery had asked for.

Montgomery told the justices that Pena was earning about $41,000 and that he wanted to hire Tom Dexter, who works at the Crittenden County Jail, for the same salary.

“He is experienced in law enforcement and comes with a high recommendation from the jail,” Montgomery said. Dexter is currently earning $28,662, but Montgomery said he recently passed the sergeant’s exam and is eligible to be promoted which would put him in the $37,000 pay scale for a sergeant.

“It was within the range that has been approved,” Montgomery said.

Justice Vickie Robertson said the starting salary for a sergeant is $32,168 and told Montgomery that a new employee wouldn’t start at what Pena was earning anyway. Pena has been in that role for 11 years.

“You’re not going to bring him in at that kind of salary,” Robertson said.

“You’re talking about going from $28,000 to $40,000? You knew that wasn’t going to fly here.”

“It is my understanding that $37,000 is the range we are looking at,” Montgomery responded.

“But he’s not a sergeant,” Robertson countered.

Montgomery said he doesn’t believe it is fair to hire Dexter for less than what he would be making once get gets promoted to sergeant, and added that Pena started at about $33,000 with no experience.

“I still think it is inappropriate to leave him down at that level,” Montgomery said. “It is a difficult job and it is an important job. I don’t want to lose him. It is hard to get an investigator.” Other justices agreed with Robertson.

“Whew! That’s almost $12,000 more,” Justice Tyrone McWright said.

“I think $32,000 should be fine,” added Justice Stacey Allen. “But asking for $34,000 to $40,000 — that’s ridiculous.”

Justices were even more incredulous when Montgomery informed them that the job was only part-time at 30 hours. His other investigator is paid about $45,000.

“For part-time?” Robertson said. “Thirty hours a week and making $40,000?”

“I feel the same,” added Justice Ronnie Marconi. “I will go $32,500 but no higher.”

“Tom, you can’t continue to bring starting people in at the same salary people are making to begin with because then that keeps increasing those starting salaries,” Robertson said.

“The $32,000 at least keeps us on scale.”

“I understand,” Montgomery said. “That’s why I am here. Help me out here all you can.”

Justices approved a salary of $32,168.

By Mark Randall

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