Constitutional Law

James D. Jenkins, Esquire

Missouri Constitution did not bar midterm increase in compensation of prosecuting attorney. State of Missouri ex rel., George v. Verkamp et al., No. 92219 (Mo. banc, May 14, 2012) Draper, J.

Courtney George was elected prosecuting attorney of Phelps County on November 7, 2006 for a term to begin January 1, 2007. Section 56.265.1(1), RSMo, provided that the prosecuting attorney’s salary would be the same as that of an associate circuit judge. The salary for associate circuit judges is set by a state commission, which on December 1, 2006 established a salary of $106,181 per year to go into effect on July 1, 2007. In 2010, Ms. George filed for a writ of mandamus, demanding that the county reimburse her for the amount she claimed she was underpaid, since the county did not increase her salary on July 1, 2007 to match the new associate circuit judge salary. The trial court issued a preliminary writ of mandamus but later quashed it, finding that Mo. Const. Art. VII, Sec. 13’s ban on increasing officials’ pay midterm authorized the county’s refusal to increase George’s pay.

Held: Reversed.
The Court unanimously relied on State ex rel. Moss v. Hamilton, 260 S.W. 466 (Mo. banc 1924), which had involved an analogous situation. In both Moss and in this case, the Court found that the increase in salary was not a midterm increase; rather, the salary was set prior to the election and was tied to a specific statutory formula, even if it was not expressed in “dollars and cents.” Here, George’s salary was set prior to her election and was tied to the salary of associate circuit judges; thus, this was not an example of an elected official using the authority of his or her position to obtain increased compensation while in office, which is what the constitutional provision was designed to prevent. The Court remanded with directions to grant the writ of mandamus and order the county to pay George the amount she had been underpaid.