Lewis County commissioners are weighing whether to allow prosecuting attorney Jonathan Meyer’s salary to be determined by a new citizen panel, or to continue setting his pay under the formula they’ve used for the past several years.
In May, commissioners voted to install a salary commission of volunteer citizens to determine salaries for themselves and the county’s auditor, assessor, clerk, coroner, prosecuting attorney and treasurer. Now, they’re contemplating removing Meyer from that list.
At present, Washington state reimburses the county at a rate of half of a Superior Court judge’s salary to go toward Meyer’s position. According to Meyer, the county is supposed to match the state’s payment, which county officials say they’ve done for at least the last two years.
“The intent is that I’m supposed to be paid the same as a Superior Court judge,” Meyer said.
Meyer said the state-funded portion of his salary was increased in July, though the county has not yet matched that.
What remains in question is whether the county is legally mandated to match the state-funded portion of Meyer’s salary, or whether it may allow the salary commission some leeway in making that decision.
“Maybe that was left in (the salary commission) by mistake,” said county manager Erik Martin. “We can change it. … The board has granted him a salary increase based on the judges’ percentage over the last two years. He’s asking whether that’s going to happen again or whether he’s got to wait for the salary commission to make a decision.”
Martin said Meyer had procured a legal opinion saying that the intent of the law meant that Lewis County needed to match the state funding. When asked whether he considered the county funding to be a mandate, Meyer said he’d kept his opinions about his own salary separate from his role as commissioners’ legal advisor.
“I don’t advise them on that, because it deals with my money,” he said. “Past practice has been to apply that. Whether they do or not is going to be up to them.”
Meyer did not rule out challenging commissioners’ legal rationale if they were to move his pay under the purview of the salary commission.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to tell the county what they should or shouldn’t do from a legal standpoint,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what I think personally. … I just want to know whether or not I’m going to be included in the salary commission.”
Though commissioners have not yet appointed any members to the salary commission, they’ve received applicants for eight of the 10 positions on the panel. They still need to find another willing member from Commission District 1 and a representative from the labor industry.
Martin said that commissioners would have to determine whether to leave Meyer’s pay under the salary commission — challenging the legal interpretation of their own legal advisor — or exempt him and continue the status quo.
“If you want to give him a raise based on the judges’ percentage like you have the past two years, we can move that forward,” Martin said. “We’d also move to revise the resolution about salary commission to take the prosecutor out.”
The conversation ended with some confusion over how Meyer’s current pay structure is actually set up. Commissioners said they would like to see more information on that before making a decision.
Meyer’s current salary is about $143,000 annually, according to salary sheet posted on Lewis County’s website.