The Montgomery County Commissioners Court voted to approve district and county attorney staff pay increases May 9.

District Attorney Brett Ligon said the county had difficulties retaining prosecutors due to higher federal and private salaries elsewhere in the state and nationwide.

Zooming in: Ligon said in the meeting that benefits offered by entities such as the Department of Homeland Security, such as paid 12-week maternity leave and higher salaries, are drawing tenured attorneys away from the county DA’s office.

Ligon also told the court many of his prosecutors have left for positions that only require working 40 hours a week, whereas the county requires prosecutors to be on call for potential crime scenes and investigations on top of trial duties.

Quote of note: “In the last calendar year, we've lost 10 prosecutors out; that's 20% of our workforce. So imagine the sheriff losing 180 deputies, ... so I'm trying to describe the appropriate amount of concern without sounding alarmed. ... I've lost four in the last month, and when it starts to accelerate that rate, then things start really becoming trouble because when I'm replacing an eight-, nine- and 10-year lawyer, I'm replacing them with a zero-month lawyer,” Ligon said.

Going forward: The court approved using contingency funding to provide $6,000 annual base pay increases to DA prosecutors and $3,000 annual base pay increases to county attorneys through the end of 2023. However, no further discussion was held regarding the paid maternity leave for employees. Ligon said since prosecutor salaries are approved within the budget, there should be room to provide a paid maternity leave, but balancing the workload would be difficult if he could not retain the staff to meet the caseload.