Nelson salary dispute heading to court

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 31, 2002

The county board decided to take County Attorney Craig Nelson’s salary request to court rather than settling it beforehand Monday.

Commissioners unanimously approved a motion to reaffirm the previous board resolution to set Nelson’s 2003 salary at 72,063.65.

The meeting was held in response to the litigation filed by Nelson, who thinks he deserves $10,000 to $15,000 more per year instead of the 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment applied to other elected officials.

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Nelson’s lawyer, Bob Goldman, explained a statute on which Nelson’s claim was based. It states that the county attorney can appeal to the court if the determination of the county board was arbitrary, oppressive or in unreasonable disregard of the responsibilities and duties of the office and the county attorney’s experience, qualifications, and performance.

&uot;I just don’t think your responsibility was carried out,&uot; Goldman, a former business partner of Nelson, said to the commissioners. &uot;Your determination was inadequate and unfair.&uot;

Goldman mentioned $80,000 as a salary level at which he would withdraw the suit.

Pointing out county attorney salaries in other counties, Nelson said, &uot;It’s clear to me my salary is not in the line with counties in the vicinity and counties that are similarly situated.&uot;

The county attorney’s office is in charge of processing felony and gross-misdemeanor cases, and all misdemeanor cases that occurr outside the cities of Albert Lea and Alden.

Nelson emphasized that the county’s success rate in prosecuting suspects is around 75 percent; that is usually about 50 percent in other counties, he said.

Closing the avenue to reach any compromise outside court, the board will leave the determination to the judge. The court will appoint a judge outside the county since the local judges, John Chesterman and James Broberg, removed themselves.