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Santa Clara’s prosecutors, public defenders and county counsel can expect a 15.5 percent pay raise in August, union representatives said Tuesday, despite the county’s last-minute tinkering with a crucial salary survey upon which two-thirds of the raise is based. In October, the county agreed to salary increases of up to 30 percent over a two-year period beginning in August, with the final figures hinging on the results of a survey of local attorney salaries. Though the new raises are supposed to go into effect next week, county and union negotiators say the salary survey isn’t yet complete. Sources say the start of the survey was delayed, and when preliminary results were returned in mid-July, county officials were not happy with the low survey response rate and the high salary figures. But James Shore, president of the Santa Clara chapter of the Government Attorneys Association, said Tuesday that preliminary survey numbers show that deputy attorneys are easily more than 10 percent behind what other lawyers are being paid around Silicon Valley and that any final adjustments made to the salary survey won’t change that. At the county’s insistence, union officials recently agreed to augment the survey results with additional salary data. County officials wanted to make sure that public entity lawyers were adequately represented in the survey and not just Palo Alto firms, where first-year associates start out at $125,000 and senior associate pay can top $200,000. Santa Clara’s prosecutors start at $62,581, with senior non-management deputies making $132,687. “Given the preliminary results, we fully expect the survey is going to come back with a wage increase being 9.5 percent,” said Shore, a deputy district attorney. Rank-and-file lawyers are warily optimistic. County officials “have bigger concerns than we do. If numbers are coming in favor of us and the county is in a budget crunch, they want to make sure it’s done correctly,” one deputy said Tuesday. “The only thing we don’t want is someone trying to play games with the numbers. We know pretty much what’s out there.” Deputy County Executive Leode Franklin and union officials refused to discuss or release preliminary survey data. But a deputy said the initial response rate was below 10 percent, and the survey — conducted by the accounting firm Hemming Morse Inc. — put average first-year pay at nearly $100,000. Under the agreement approved by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in October, attorneys are to receive a guaranteed raise of 6 percent starting in August and, in addition, could receive as much as 9.5 percent more if the salary survey shows that their pay lags behind the average salary of the county’s private and public sector lawyers. In August 2003, attorneys will receive a 3.5 percent to 5.5 percent raise based on the consumer price index and up to an additional 9.5 percent based on a second salary survey. The October agreement was prompted by an exodus of nearly 25 percent of Santa Clara’s attorneys and difficulty in recruiting new talent. In a scramble to gather more data, District Attorney George Kennedy, County Counsel Ann Ravel and Public Defender Jose Villareal signed a second set of letters to accompany a second batch of surveys sent to firms and agencies that hadn’t responded. Shore downplayed any controversy surrounding the survey, saying that all parties were interested in achieving a fair salary picture from a cross-section of small, medium and large firms and public agencies. Partners, solo practitioners and managers at public entity law firms aren’t included in the survey. “We want a fair result,” Shore said. “Fairness requires that federal attorneys and lower paid deputy city attorneys are included.” Shore also pointed out that the survey doesn’t just look at a law firm or government agency’s salary scale, but also weights the results according to the number of attorneys at a particular pay level. Shore said this mechanism should prevent the pay levels of public sector attorneys — who make up a minority of the lawyers in the county — from pulling the average down. “To look to the city of Morgan Hill or Los Altos city attorneys, to think their salary scales are the only thing we should look at is the tail wagging the dog,” Shore said. Given the tumultuous history of attorney labor relations in Santa Clara — where deputies took their bosses to court in 1994 to enforce the county’s prevailing wage clause — Shore and others agree they are working hard to keep negotiations positive. “I am very aware and cognizant of the fact there has been this animosity. I have done everything in my power to prevent that,” Shore said. “Lawsuits are failures in my opinion, and they have to happen but they don’t have to happen now.” Kennedy, who isn’t part of the negotiation team, said a substantial pay raise would help stabilize his office. “It’s really great if it looks like there will be a substantial increase,” Kennedy said. “It helps with recruiting and retention.”

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