By: Mark Diaz
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Galveston County DA Office Seeking Budget Increase
Galveston County District Attorney Seeking Funds For More Prosecutors
Hello everyone, I know I’m a little late on doing this live session, but I wanted to make sure I got it done. What I wanted to talk about was last Friday, in the Galveston County Daily News, an article came out about Galveston County elected District Attorney seeking additional funds for prosecutors in his office.
He is seeking an additional $1 million for his budget so that he can up salaries to be competitive with neighboring counties. I am not here to discuss prosecutors’ salaries and whether or not their salaries are high enough. That’s not my issue here.
When I saw the article in the paper, I went and watched the video of the budget meeting. I listened to Jack Roady trying to justify this extra million dollars that he says will keep him competitive and allow him to bring in more prosecutors. He talked about a prosecutor shortage. That it’s a nationwide problem and all kinds of stuff. I want to go through some of that today.
Starting Pay For Galveston County Prosecutors
At one point, I guess he had provided statistics to the commissioners. I hope this reaches at least one of the commissioners, hopefully, Darrell Apffel. Commissioner Apffel, I felt he had some intelligent questions for Jack during the meeting. One of the comparisons he gave was that some low starting salary for a misdemeanor prosecutor is $67,000 right out of law school. He then said that when starting at a law firm, the starting salaries are like $215,000 or something. I can assure you that those are fewer and far between.
Virtual vs. In-Person
He gave explanations that prosecutors are leaving because when they come to the private sector, they’re allowed to work virtually. He made it a point to say that they as prosecutors don’t have that luxury. They have to be in court. I’m not sure exactly what he’s talking about.
If the prosecutor is in court, and my client has to be in court, I have to be in court too. I’ve been in private practice, next year it’ll be 25 years, and I don’t get to work virtually. I don’t know what he’s talking about. I don’t get to as he said, wake up in my pajamas and go to work. I have to be in court just like prosecutors do and just as my clients do.
Prosecutor Shortage Not Due To Salary
What I wanted to address was the shortage in the DA’s office is not due to salary. Not at all. I have a list and I have names, I have not talked to all these people individually, so I’m not going to name their names. The problem is not that people are leaving for money.
Here’s the best example I can give you for that.
Over the course of 2021 and 2022. He lost 10 chiefs. Okay, so he lost the chief who had given 17 years of service, another one who had given at least 10. Another one had seven, and another one had 11. Another one had 18. Another one had 21, and the biggest one had 27. Another important prosecutor had six years, a chief, six years here in Galveston, and then another one who had 18 years of service.
If you’re going to stand in front of the Commissioner’s court and try and convince them, that people who had been there over 10 years left for money that’s just not genuine. People who have been there, for instance, 27 years, you’re going to try to tell me he left because of money? What has happened across the street is there have been decisions that have been made by the leadership, including Mr. Roady, that have killed morale in that office. The reason that you’ve lost 10 chiefs in two years is not that you don’t have enough money.
I mentioned there were 10 chiefs. He also lost four felony 2 prosecutors, a Fraud Examiner, and an investigator who had been there at least 20 years. So basically, what we’re talking about is over 100 years of experience have been lost in recent history. None of it is due to money. I know all these people, none of them wanted to leave. Several of them have gone on to other prosecutorial offices, not because the money was better, but because prosecution is what they want to do.
People Work In The Criminal Justice System Because They Want To
I know of several on this list, two, specifically, that uprooted their entire lives, sold their properties in Galveston, and moved to where they could get a job as a prosecutor. So, when you talk about money being the motivator, that may certainly be true in recruiting new young hires. It’s not all of the motivation though. As everyone knows, those of us who work in the criminal justice system, do it because that’s what we want to do.
As a criminal defense attorney, I’m not like a PI attorney. I don’t win $30 million judgments in court. To say it’s all about the money, and money is the only thing that’s going to fix it. It’s just completely off base. I think he gave the numbers, so he’s got 47 people. He’s got 47 spots, and 11 of them are vacant.
So, I’ve just told you about 10 chiefs, and 4 second in commands who left. That’s 14 People who have left. So, had he kept all those people, would he have 11 vacancies? If I’m running an organization, and in the course of a short time, out of my 47, I lose 14 of my highest-ranking employees I won’t run and seek more money and say, oh these people left because of money. I need more money. No. I’m going to try to figure out what have I done wrong, that 14 people have left my organization, 14 key people.
I’m losing all this talent and I think if I can just get the commissioners to give me more money and throw more money at it, it will all take care of itself. It doesn’t work like that. Some decisions have been made, which forced all these people to leave.
The Million Dollars The DA Seeks Comes From Taxpayers
Rather than look inside and say, what can we do better as an organization to try and fix this problem? Where’s the morale? What do I need to do with my people? He goes and says, I need more money, a million dollars. The reason it bothers me is that I live here. I’m a taxpayer here. He’s asking for a million dollars that will come from all of us.
So, if it gets to the point that the commissioner’s court gets on board with this, they’re going to have to raise money somewhere, which means we pay more property tax, we pay more something or other to raise these 1 million dollars that Jack wants, to fix the problem that he created. I just don’t agree with that at all.
I’m not trying to argue that prosecutors should be paid less, if there’s enough in the budget, pay them more. There were discussions in there about how he’s had to eliminate positions like the Special Victims Unit because of shortages within the office. Well, that wouldn’t have had to happen, had decisions not been made that forced everyone to leave.
The other thing I’d like everyone to remember is that when Jack Roady became the elected DA. Initially, those positions didn’t exist, he created them, which means there was a time when the Special Victims cases were prosecuted by the prosecutors in that court. I’m not saying that’s ideal, but as an organization, you make adjustments to deal with what you have before you. Rather than just shouting, I need more money.
So, while there were numbers given of Galveston’s starting salary versus Brazoria versus Montgomery County, and Galveston being the lowest. Again, I’m not arguing prosecutors don’t need to be paid more money. I am simply against him trying to make it sound like the only reason his people left is for money, because none of those chiefs left for money, not one. I know where they went. I know where they work today.
Some of them did come to the defense, not because they wanted to, but because they have to survive. They felt like they couldn’t stay there anymore under the current circumstances. They made decisions, and several of them had to sell properties and move. I see another one on the list who left for another prosecutor’s office, not because she wanted to, but because she couldn’t stay here anymore.
Then the taxpayers are supposed to pick it up. I just can’t see that. Like I said, in my organization, I’ve only got two lawyers working for me. If both of them quit next week, I’d be trying to figure out what I did wrong. I wouldn’t be going to my banker and saying hey, give me a million-dollar loan so I can attract new people to work for me.
The Problem Isn’t Money It’s Morale
Regardless of what you think, if you read the article, I just wanted to give you that perspective. If you are interested enough, you can go to the Galveston county commissioners’ website and watch the video. The elected DA saying that he needs money so he can be competitive is crazy. That’s not where the problem started.
I think he would do better looking inside himself and figuring out exactly what he did or what decisions were made that forced all these people with all these years of experience to leave in such a short time. People who stay there for 18 years don’t leave because they got more money, people who’ve been there for 18 years plan on staying and retiring there. Thank you all for listening, hope you’re having a good week.
Contact Mark Diaz For Criminal Defense Representation In Galveston County
Throughout my career as a criminal defense lawyer in Galveston, I have successfully handled every type of criminal defense case. More importantly, criminal defense is the only thing I do. I have witnessed firsthand how a criminal charge can negatively impact every area of a person’s life. As a criminal defense lawyer, I consider it a privilege to help people during this stressful time in their lives. Call me today at (409) 572-8095 for a free consultation to discuss your case.