Kochly said he would have to lay off 33 attorneys—a third of his staff. “If this is how much of a cut I have to take, I will no longer be able to prosecute misdemeanors — that's firm," Kochly said, according to the Contra Costa Times. "Something has to be done so the whole criminal justice system doesn't disintegrate."
That’s a pretty alarming thing to be saying, and it sure got him lots of attention by news organizations and blogs, like this one.
Yes, I think it would be very unfortunate if our current state budget crisis forced Kochly to lay off so many attorneys. I don’t disagree with some readers who say these attorneys work hard and do important work. I also think it’s unfortunate that the Sheriff’s Department might have to eliminate the jobs of 75 deputies, or that the county had to cut the positions of social service workers who handle elder and child abuse cases. And the list goes on...
Outside of Contra Costa County’s government, school districts in the area are desperately scrambling to deal with state budget cuts and ways to protect the jobs of teachers. Outside the public sector, companies big and small in our area are fighting for survival. The San Francisco Chronicle might close. The rolls of the unemployed are growing, here in the East Bay, in the Bay Area, in the state, around the country.
Mr. Kochly, in case you haven’t noticed, we’re in a national emergency. And even though people in your office perform a valuable public service, it doesn’t serve your cause well when you effectively stamp your foot and make headline-grabbing threats. Your statements tell the public that you and your office are hurting the most of everyone and that you and your office provide the most vital services of any government agency.
I would have expected more honorable behavior from our local government leaders right now, at all government levels, and that includes you. It would renew the public's sense of faith in our ability to get through this crisis if our leaders showed a willingness to work together to find solutions that cause the least disruption to public services across the board.
Silly me. Expecting more noble, honorable behavior from our county's top prosecutor, our District Attorney--instead of him and the District Attorney’s Association crying mine, mine, mine.
This is all even more unseemly coming from Kochly, considering this November 2008 Contra Costa Times report that a reader alerted me to.
In this report, columnist Daniel Borenstein revealed the fact that Kochly was one of three elected Contra Costa officials who are “double-dipping.” That is “drawing six-figure retirement checks,” on top of the salaries and health benefits they earn from their elected positions. The others are Sheriff Warren Rupf and Auditor Steven Ybarra.
Borenstein said the practice is legal, but “it shouldn’t be. The large compensations highlight the problems with the state rules that allow the simultaneous payments.”
Kochly earned $239,000 in salary and benefits “last year,” which would be 2007, if Borenstein was writing this in November 2008. That $239,000 doesn’t include his annual pension of $165,000, which he earned from working for the county for much of his professional career and then retiring before seeking the elected office of District Attorney. His DA’s salary, plus his pension, made for a yearly total of at least $404,000.
According to Borenstein, Rupf earned $265,000 in salary and benefits. With $198,000 in annual pension, that brought his yearly earnings to a total of at least $454,000. Auditor Stephen Ybarra earned $208,000 in salary and benefits. Adding in his annual pension, currently about $132,000, that makes for a yearly total of at least $340,000.
Borenstein added: “Once elected to their current positions, they had the option to keep contributing to their pensions like other county employees or start receiving payments. The pensions are based on three factors: years of service, average of the 12 months of the highest salary, and age when the pension payments began.”
Borenstein noted that most retirement plans in the private sector require the worker to terminate employment before drawing a pension. But not in the public sector. Here's Borenstein’s solution, which makes sense to me and probably to a lot of other people: “Public-sector employees, whether or not they are elected officials, should choose between retirement and working. Put another way, pensions should be for people who are really retired.”
So, unless Kochly has stopped his albeit legal double-dipping practices since Borenstein’s column appeared, he might want to tone down his whining. And, as a couple readers suggested, why couldn't he and his top-paid attorneys agree to a temporary pay cut in order to save the jobs of some of their co-workers. Kochly looks like he could afford it.