As her term winds down, departing Charlevoix County prosecutor Mary Beth Kur has proposed a 27% decrease in her office's budget for next year.

This includes a huge cut in her own position, from $84,700 to $55,000.

Cuts for an incoming prosecutor would be quite a change from past Charlevoix practice.

When Kur assumed office by appointment in 1995, she started at the salary of her predecessor, Richard May. May himself received a $2,100 increase when he was elected over incumbent Kraag Lieberman in 1993.

According to published comments, the commissioners do intend to enact cuts, though not to the extent that Kur recommended. One stated reason is that John Jarema, the victor over Kur in the Republican primary, campaigned saying he could do with smaller staff and a smaller budget. Besides, commissioners say, the salary of an elected official cannot be reduced during a term. They add that salary cuts would bring Charlevoix County in line with Emmet County. Finally, commissioners are considering contracting out part of the prosecutor's duties to unnamed private counsel.

I am the Green Party candidate for Charlevoix prosecutor in November. I have no opinion on what the salary should be. The commissioners have the right and duty to decide that.

However, I have strong opinions about the process by which they reach their decision.

Unless commissioners believe that lame duck Kur's salary was too high in 2004, irrational reaction to what one candidate of one party said in a primary -- or to the candidacy of another party -- has no place in the process. Unless there has been a revenue shortfall or decrease in crime, commissioners should stick to objective precedents and practices in place since 1993.

The prosecutor is elected independently. The office cannot be under the control of the commissioners. Voters decide who would be the best prosecutor based on candidates' training, experience, and policies. The duties and salary should not depend on the fact that Kur is leaving. They should depend simply on the hours, work load, and importance of the prosecutor's job. Just so, Bush and Kerry would get the same pay as president even though Bush has on-the-job experience.

The Charlevoix prosecutor's office is not the only one affected by budgetary manipulation. The drain commission office is also at risk.

It is an important office. Drain regulations were one of the factors that kept Wal-Mart out of Charlevoix last spring.

By state law the part-time drain job involves at least a day a week in the office, plus meetings and inspections elsewhere.

Republican challenger Marc Seelye hopes to unseat incumbent Green drain commissioner JoAnne Beemon in November. If he wins, Seelye intends simultaneously to continue his present job as soil erosion control officer.

He would be right to try to continue it. It's important, full-time work. He does it effectively.

But it would be impossible. He could not do elected drain duties and appointed soil duties at the same time. The week has only 40 hours. Elected duties must take precedence.

For years, even before Beemon was elected, Charlevoix commissioners dealt with the conflict by squeezing the drain office. The pay is only a dollar a year plus per diems.

These are the wages of a slave. The office needs a reasonable salary.

Otherwise, Seelye if elected would be sorely tempted -- as anyone would be -- to short-change or skip the drain duties. If Beemon wins, she would have to continue with no compensation or health benefits.

The commissioners have not articulated their reasoning well. On October 27 they make their final decision. There is still time for the public to weigh in.

Let the discussion begin.

Commissioners belittle candidates
Ellis Boal -- Letter to editor in the Petoskey News-Review, October 26, 2004, page A4

Charlevoix prosecutor Mary Beth Kur's News-Review guest commentary of October 15 responds to mine of October 12, in which I critiqued this month's ongoing discussion of the Charlevoix County budget for 2005.

Kur addressed only the prosecutor's salary. She did not disagree with concerns expressed about the drain commissioner's day-a-week dollar-a-year salary.

This discussion is remarkable because Kur proposed a big budget cut in her own office. John Jarema defeated her in the Republican primary, so the outcome will not affect her.

In the past the pay of incoming Charlevoix prosecutors has equalled or exceeded their predecessors' pay.

To recap everyone's position: Kur's salary today is $84,700. She proposed $55,000 for next year. Jarema responded with $75-80,000. County commissioners set it tentatively at $63,000. Kur now says that number is "sound."

For myself, as the Green Party candidate I told the commissioners I would serve vigorously and with pleasure even at the lowest figure.

But I also argued that salary should be determined by objective factors, like the county's past practices and the status of the office. If commissioners go on record that Kur received too much, then yes, cut the salary.

They counter that candidates' campaign programs and experience are proper considerations for salary. In the process they belittle Jarema and me.

But it is the voters who should judge our qualifications. For myself, I have written legal articles and books and litigated around the country. I set textbook precedents in two cases, and was commended by future Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer in one.

Details and my program are at Jarema's are different. See

It is nonsense for commissioners to equate us into one number. Salary should be determined by the office, not the officeholder.

On October 27 commissioners make their final decision.