LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department

Louisville prosecutors leaving office for better paying jobs

Prosecutors in Louisville are blaming low pay for a recent exodus of staffers from the office.

In the past four months, the Jefferson County Commonwealth's Attorney's office has lost eight prosecutors -- almost one-fifth of its trial staff. Many are leaving for private practice, two have gone to work at the U.S. attorney's office and another has left to become a prosecutor in Shelby County.

Though prosecutors and office officials say the timing is just coincidence, the departures are the largest since Dave Stengel became commonwealth's attorney in 1996.

"It's not a high-paying job and there's a lot more potential in the open market to make more money to raise family and pay bills," said former Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Kevin Glogower, who left May 25.Former prosecutor Christian Mascagni said the starting salary of $35,000 kept him from buying a house and paying off his student loans.

"I was living paycheck to paycheck," said Mascagni, who recently left the prosecutor's office after more than two years to go into private practice. "It was a great opportunity to get trial experience and learn how to be a trial attorney. But the bottom line is just that it's too tough to stay there too long on what they pay."

Jefferson County's starting salary of $36,000 for prosecutors was lower than several other similar-sized counties. Prosecutors in the Shelby County district attorney's office in Memphis start at more than $50,000 a year. Prosecutors in Nashville, Cincinnati and Cleveland make more than $40,000 in their first year.

Rick Bartley, president of the Kentucky Commonwealth's Attorney's Association, said low pay is a problem throughout the state, noting that 15 years ago he quit his job as a prosecutor because he couldn't support his family.

"We have all seen it," said Bartley, Pike County commonwealth's attorney. "Just when you get someone who is starting to look really good, they are much more valuable to private firms where the pay is better."

Efforts to raise pay or help prosecutors and public defenders pay off student loans have failed. This past legislative session, HB 226, which would provide law-school loan reimbursement to public defenders, prosecutors and civil legal services attorneys, did not pass.