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Low pay at Nueces County DA's Office leads to high turnover, poor results

One prosecutor who recently left the district attorney's office took a position with the Corpus Christi Public Defender's Office.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez said that his office is losing some of its most experienced prosecutors due to low-paying salaries. 

On Monday, 3NEWS reported that the case against Calallen-area obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Juan Villarreal was dismissed after a visiting judge agreed with the defense that evidence lost by the Nueces County District Attorney’s Office irreparably damaged the case. 

It all serves to highlight the continuing staffing issues in the district attorney's office. 

"I think that anybody involved in the courthouse would agree that the attorneys we have here are definitely underpaid," Gonzalez said. 

He said that attracting and retaining good prosecutors in Nueces County has not been an easy task. 

“Currently, we are eight prosecutors understaffed, and I believe that around Feb. 17, that number will be up to 11," he said. 

One prosecutor who recently left the district attorney's office took a position with the Corpus Christi Public Defender's Office. Another prosecutor received a $40,000 pay increase to work with a local law firm. 

Gonzalez said that salaries, which tend to range in the low- to- mid 60's, make it difficult make it hard for his office to get ahead. 

"We start to get back up and then they end up leaving for pay increases we can’t compete with," he said. 

Having fewer prosecutors means cases are not being tried quickly and efficiently -- something that can create problems for everyone in the system. 

However Kleberg/Kenedy County District Attorney John Hubert said he understands the problem of keeping capable people in those positions. 

“It's hard to get young, talented professionals to choose to be a prosecutor now because the pay is low, the hours are long, and it can be a very stressful job," he said.

To be clear, Nueces County commissioners have made efforts to address the salary issue before, but will likely need to look at further adjustments.

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