Prosecutor’s offices throughout Wisconsin are facing the possibility of having to significantly shuffle or delay courts dates if assistant district attorneys are forced to take six additional furlough days by June 30.
In a proposal sent to the Association of State Prosecutors on Wednesday, the Office of State Employment Relations requested that members take an additional six furlough days, beyond the 10 already imposed as part of the last state budget, or face a 20 percent reduction in employment status which would include a loss in benefits and a pay cut.
As part of former Gov. Jim Doyle’s 2009-11 budget, state employees were required to take 16 furlough days during the two years, but contractual stipulations required only 10 from assistant district attorneys.
“This was prompted by the invocation of the ‘me too’ clause because other bargaining units said they wanted to be capped at 10 days like the prosecutors were,” said Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm.
The clause provides that if any other bargaining unit takes a reduced number of furlough days, the reduced number also applies to employees represented by that union, which means the state could have to pay out more than $11 million to workers who took the mandated eight furlough days in each of the last two fiscal years.
But to try and request the additional furlough days to offset the $11 million this late in the fiscal year is “almost extortion,” said Sheboygan County District Attorney Joe DeCecco.
With only five assistant district attorneys in his office, DeCecco said forcing six furlough days on each before the end of June would be a logistical nightmare for the courts. He said the additional days would require judges in the county to significantly shift trial dates and motion hearings to accommodate the absences.
“The problem is things coming up in the next two months have been set for a long time,” he said. “If this was coming a year from now, we could move things around, but these days are already filled.”
David Feiss, Milwaukee assistant district attorney and president of the ASP, said the agency was working with OSER to find other alternatives to solve the problem.
Absent an agreement on the additional furlough days, the employment status reductions are scheduled to take effect in 30 days.
“Optimism or pessimism just really doesn’t serve any purpose at this time,” Feiss said. “We only have time to be pragmatic.”
Jack Zemlicka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org