Budget puts bite on DABThe budget battle raging in Madison is already taking a local toll. Friday, Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Holets left the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office for a similar position a few miles away, in a state where public employees aren’t under attack.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
BThe budget battle raging in Madison is already taking a local toll. Friday, Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Holets left the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office for a similar position a few miles away, in a state where public employees aren’t under attack.
Holets now works for the criminal division of the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office. He left the Wisconsin position after only eight months because Minnesota offers a better opportunity.
“It’s a selfish, personal decision I guess,” Holets said. “There’s more room for growth; you get raises over there; it’s easier to make that a career track position because of the way the state of Minnesota views this position versus the state of Wisconsin.”
He praised everyone he’s worked with in Douglas County.
“I like this office a lot, I really do. The people here are top-notch,” Holets said. He was torn about applying for the Minnesota position, but the state of Wisconsin made his decision easy.
“I’m very happy to be going because of the opportunity,” Holets said. “I’m not happy to be leaving.”
The wheels of justice may grind more slowly in Douglas County as a new ADA is sought.
“I think the quality of the work is going to continue,” said District Attorney Dan Blank. “We’re not going to sacrifice our effort and our attitude and our support of victims in the community. It just feels like we’re fighting an uphill battle at times.”
And, he said, they may have to sacrifice quantity for that quality.
“We can’t be everything for everybody,” Blank said. “Low level offenses are going to get way less attention than they possibly deserve, certainly than they would have gotten in the past.”
For the fifth time in less than two years, the DA is going through the hiring process.
“It’s just exhausting,” he said, and “very, very frustrating.”
He’s once again reassigning cases, some of which are already on their third or fourth prosecutor. Blank and the two ADAs that remain — full-timer Mark Freuhauf and Shelley Torvinen in the half-time position — will see their caseloads increase by up to 40 percent as they wait for another prosecutor.
The current system is set up for turnover in the office, according to Blank and Holets.
“In this market and this political environment right now, I think it is pure public service,” Blank said.
Pay for ADAs has been frozen at $48,000 for years, and furlough days chipped away at that. Even if the proposed budget re-institutes cost of living increases, they will see a net loss due to increases in health care premiums and pension costs. And the loss of collective bargaining rights would be an added blow.
“It’s such a good job; it’s such a good place to be that I think you’ll be able to get people here, but keeping people is going to be the difficult,” Holets said. “Then you end up as a training facility for other places and that’s no way to run this kind of a job.”
There is a second part to the story. An experienced prosecutor from another had applied for the ADA position before the budget bills were unveiled. Blank contacted him recently, and he said he is no longer interested in relocating to Douglas County because the status of state employment is so unstable.
These are real-life examples of how the proposed budget bills are impacting everyday people, Blank said.