OPA gave out $143K in pay raises since Aug. 1

LIHU‘E — Since Aug. 1, County Prosecuting Attorney Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho gave $123,198 in combined pay raises to half of her team of 12 prosecuting attorneys. Additionally, a change in position has allowed a law office assistant at OPA to boost her annual income by almost $20,000.

Altogether, the pay raises awarded by Iseri-Carvalho since Aug. 1 total $143,134, according to county documents provided to The Garden Island last week.

County spokeswoman Beth Tokioka said salaries are usually adjusted on the first or 16th day of the month. She wasn’t able to confirm by press time whether those raises were given after the Aug. 11 Primary Elections, in which Iseri-Carvalho came 49 votes behind Justin Kollar, her opponent in today’s election.

As for the timing of the raises, Iseri-Carvalho said that historically, most raises at OPA are considered during July and December.

“The deputy prosecutors received raises because they earned it,” Iseri-Carvalho said in an email to The Garden Island Monday. “They often miss out on family events and outings because there is so much work to do.”

She said it’s common for deputy prosecutors to work 50-60 hours a week, and they make themselves available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“My standards are exceptionally high,” Iseri-Carvalho said. “It takes a very special type of person to endure the demanding workload and put out a quality product without experiencing burnout. One needs to reward employees for never just ‘meeting expectations’ but zealously achieving higher-than-expected results, and serving with integrity and honesty.”

In Kerrileen Lizama’s case, she was first hired July 5, 2011, as a law office assistant. As of Aug. 1, she was making $35,064 annually. She is now a program assistant, and is earning $55,000, which translates to an effective pay raise of $19,936.

Lizama was promoted when the position became vacant after Program Assistant Lianne Parongao departed, Iseri-Carvalho said. As of Aug. 1, Parongao was still an OPA employee making $55,000 annually, but she no longer works at OPA, according to the county Personnel Department.

Lizama had previously assisted Parongao in all programs and community events, Iseri-Carvalho said, and came to OPA with a 4.0 GPA in Hawaiian studies, which was what OPA was looking for to provide academic and cultural assistance to the  development of diversion programs.

“I inquired with our budget analyst if there were funds available, and was told that there were because we had vacant positions,” said Iseri-Carvalho. She added that the vacancies and “astronomical crime rates” required deputy prosecutors to handle numerous additional caseloads, which for some of them meant working twice as much without any compensation.

OPA has 37 employees, including Iseri-Carvalho, who earns $114,848 annually, a salary higher than Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.’s annual $114,490 pay.

As of Aug. 1, Iseri-Carvalho and her 12 deputy prosecutors were making $1.15 million in annual salaries combined. As of Friday, the combined annual salaries for Iseri-Carvalho and her deputy prosecutors was $1.27 million.

Iseri-Carvalho’s salary is set by the county Salary Commission. County spokeswoman Beth Tokioka said the salaries of all deputy prosecutors are set at the discretion of Iseri-Carvalho, the department’s head.

Tokioka said that for positions that are not subject to the Salary Ordinance but are exempt from civil service, such as limited-term contract positions, the salaries are also set at the discretion of the department head.  

For civil service positions, Tokioka said, salaries are set via civil service rules and cannot be arbitrarily changed.  

“There is a process that must be followed in order to increase the salary of the civil service employee, which would usually require re-classification of the position,” Tokioka said.

Merit, workload, experience

Iseri-Carvalho said “raises are given on the basis of the following factors: Merit (evaluations by management and judges), workload, experience and time of service.”

Deputy Prosecutor Rebecca Vogt was hired more than two years ago, in August 2010, and as of Friday she was earning $80,000 annually. Vogt did not get a raise recently, despite the fact that all six deputy prosecutors who got a raise after Aug. 1 were hired well after she got hired.

Vogt is currently suing OPA for retaliation and seniority and salary issues. She and Deputy Prosecutor Kai Lawrence are the lowest-paid deputy prosecutors at OPA. Deputy Prosecutors Ross Henry and Lance Kobashigawa make $15,000 more than Vogt and Lawrence, and everyone else earns the $101,066 cap, with the exception of First Deputy Jake Delaplane, who earns $105,660.

Additionally, Special Deputy Prosecutor Gary Nelson, hired nine days after Vogt, was earning $10,000 less than her as of Aug. 1. After Aug. 1, Nelson got a $31,066 raise, boosting his salary to $101,066. Furthermore, his raise was retroactive to July 1, according to the county Personnel Department.

The deputy prosecutors who received pay raises since Aug. 1 are:

• Charles Foster, hired July 2, 2012. From $70,000 to $101,066.

• Gary Nelson (special), hired Aug. 22, 2011. From $70,000 to $101,066, retroactive to July 1.

• Jared Auna, hired April 4, 2011. From $85,000 to $101,066.

• Henry Ross, hired Oct. 17, 2011. From $75,000 to $95,000.

• Lance Kobashigawa, hired Sept. 9, 2011. From $80,000 to $95,000.

• Kai Lawrence, hired Jan. 3, 2012. From $70,000 to $80,000.

The deputy prosecutors who did not receive a pay raise since Aug. 1, and their salaries, are:

• Rebecca Vogt, hired Aug. 13, 2010; $80,000.

• Jake Delaplane (First Deputy), hired Aug. 2, 2010; $105,660.

• Sam Jajich (special), hired Jan. 11, 2010; $101,066.

• Melinda Mendes, hired Feb. 7, 2010; $101,066.

• John Murphy (special), hired Nov. 1, 2009; $101,066.

• Lisa Arin, hired Sept. 4, 2009; $101,066.

Dishonesty, hard work

Besides Iseri-Carvalho and the 12 deputy prosecutors, OPA’s 24 other employees work in various positions such as legal clerk, law clerk, law office assistant, special investigator, grant coordinator, victim witness counselor, program support technician, process server, supervising legal clerk and administrative officer.

The four remaining law office assistants at OPA make between $30,036 and $35,064 annually. A law clerk makes $55,000 annually and a special investigator makes $51,312. None of these positions received a pay raise since Aug. 1.

Tokioka said all the other positions are civil service employees and their pay is not authorized for release.

Iseri-Carvalho said the current salaries of the deputy prosecutors are in the same range as the salaries of the deputy county attorneys. Also, the pay scale on Kaua‘i is comparable to other prosecuting attorneys statewide, with the exception of Maui County, which she said she was told offers a higher pay.

In January, Iseri-Carvalho told The Garden Island that since she took office in 2008, there were 15 prosecuting attorneys who had been hired and then left on their own or were let go.

Compared to O‘ahu and Maui, Kaua‘i is a “very rural area,” she said Monday. Many prosecuting attorneys who have left OPA — excluding those “dismissed for dishonesty” — said they were leaving because they got lonely due to the “lack of extracurricular activities available to young, aspiring attorneys, as there isn’t much night life, and the ability to engage in a relationship was difficult,” according to Iseri-Carvalho.

She said it’s quite unfortunate that the deputy prosecutors have to deal with negative criticism because of politics.

“Our attorneys work extremely hard and are very successful in prosecuting cases given our 97 percent conviction rate. We deal with over 150-200 cases a week,” Iseri-Carvalho said.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.

An earlier version of this article stated Deputy Prosecutor Rebecca Vogt was hired Aug. 13, 2011.The correct date Vogt was hired is Aug. 13, 2010.


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