Residents will decide on full-time prosecutor position
CHARLESTON -- Mississippi County voters will decide during the November general election whether they want a full-time prosecuting attorney or not.
County commissioners decided during their regular meeting Thursday to voluntarily put the issue on the ballot after being presented with a list of 531 signatures requesting this.
County Clerk Junior DeLay said while the list of signatures was not a legal petition, it clearly indicates those in favor of placing the issue on the ballot could obtain the 10 percent of registered voters, which works out to 416 votes, for a legal petition.
Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg said many county residents probably think the county prosecutor is already a full-time position. "I think it needs to be explained to the voters," he said.
A full-time prosecuting attorney is not allowed to have a private practice on the side while in office, according to DeLay -- something that was regularly done until the mid-1980s, he noted.
DeLay said the salary would also double, in rough figures, to match that of an associate circuit judge.
In 2007, the salary for an associate circuit judge was $96,000.
DeLay said the salary change would go into effect with the next term of office in 2011.
Several prosecuting attorneys over the years have stated they think the job should be a full-time position due to the workload.
"I would support it. This job has actually been a full-time position since the late '80s," said Darren Cann, Mississippi County's present prosecuting attorney. "Prosecutors have been working it full time in excess of 40 hours per week and the work load has increased year after year after year."
Cann said Mississippi County has a comparable case load to neighboring counties which all have full-time prosecutors.
"We are one of the few counties in the state that has a part-time prosecutor and the last holdout in the Bootheel region," he said. "I think it will be good for the position to be full time. It should bring stability -- I believe it will cut down on the turnover rate."
In other business Thursday, the Hartford Insurance Company, which provides property insurance for the county, has asked the county to implement an extensive electrical preventative maintenance program.
A letter from the Hartford Insurance Company advises these programs are needed "in all buildings regardless of their age," DeLay said, to reduce the risk of an electrical fire.
The letter also includes a recommended maintenance program with lists of items to check or maintain on a monthly, triannual, quarterly and annual basis.
These items range from cleaning dust and dirt to inspecting and tightening all electrical connections. The letter advises connections can become loose due to expansions and contractions of the building from temperature changes.
"There's no way you could check every connection in this building," DeLay said.
Some of the items listed as suggested monthly maintenance are feasible, Blumenberg said, but overall county officials agreed the suggested preventative maintenance schedule can be summed up in a single word: overkill.
Blumenberg said it is likely if someone were to do an inspection and sign off on it, that person would then be assuming liability in the event there was some loss related to items that were inspected. "If you sign off on it and something goes wrong, whose fault is it going to be?" he said.
DeLay said the county was asked to respond within 30 days with their plans.
He suggested county officials could contact their local insurance agent "and find out how important it is and the consequences of not complying. Some of this would be very expensive."