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Berkeley prosecutor requests more funds

March 01, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Berkeley County ranks second in criminal prosecutions among West Virginia's 55 counties and Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely told Berkeley County Council members Tuesday that two unfunded mandates from the state have increased her office's workload.

The cost of extraditing individuals wanted on outstanding felony charges in Berkeley County has been shifted from the state to the county prosecuting attorney's office, Games-Neely said in her budget presentation to council members.

Last year, the cost was more than $100,000, Games-Neely said while asking council members for additional money to give her staff pay raises, and to hire an additional assistant prosecuting attorney and another legal assistant.

The county council is the budget-balancing arm of county government and decides how much taxpayer money is allocated from the general fund to each of the county's six elected offices, including their own.

Games-Neely said rule changes recently instituted by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals have forced her office to prepare a written answer to every petition for appeal that is filed with the high court within a relatively narrow time frame.

"You may have walked in (to court) and pleaded guilty ... you got the sentence you wanted (but) suddenly you're unhappy. That can go to the Supreme Court ... and now we have to go out and designate the record, get it done, write it out," Games-Neely said. "The day the rule change happened, we were just inundated and we talked to the attorney general, and they're tearing their hair out."

The appellate attorney in her office has been working more than 90 hours a week, Games-Neely said.

In addition to the workload, Games-Neely said she would like to give experience-based salary increases to keep assistant prosecutors from leaving her office for higher pay elsewhere.

One assistant prosecutor recently left for a job with the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney's office, which pays $10,000 more in salary and has one-tenth of the workload, Games-Neely said.

While her assistant prosecutors appear to be the county's "high-dollar" employees, Games-Neely said they also have $100,000 student loans to pay back.

Aside from Games-Neely's presentation, council members on Tuesday also discussed budget requests from Circuit Clerk Virginia M. Sine and Assessor Patricia "Patsy" Kilmer.

Sine and Kilmer requested additional money for salary increases. Sine asked for funding to give staff in her office an across-the-board $1,000 raise. Kilmer asked for a 3 percent increase in the amount she budgets for certain staff salaries for unspecified pay increases.

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