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Delaware Dept. of Justice seeks funding to compete in tight job market

Delaware Public Media

The Delaware Department of Justice is seeking a budget bump next year.

The Office of Management and Budget is hearing from every government agency over the next couple of weeks as they begin to develop the Governor’s 2023 recommended budget.

The Department of Justice presented Tuesday, seeking an additional three and a half million to its current $41 million budget.

A big part of that increase would cover pay increases for attorneys and public defenders. State Attorney General Kathy Jennings says the current pay scale for attorneys was established back in 2000 — and needs to be updated.

“We know that public sector salaries will never be on par with private sector salaries, and we are not asking for them to be,” Jennings says. “We are asking for these employees to be paid fairly — and for our agencies to have a fighting chance in a highly competitive labor market.”

Jennings says the DOJ’s first year attorney salary is below even New Castle County or the City of Wilmington’s compensation levels, starting at around $64,000.

State lawmakers passed a series of criminal justice reforms this year, many of which Gov. John Carney signed this week.

Some of those reforms mean a heavier workload for the Delaware Department of Justice.

So when State Attorney General Kathy Jennings presented her department’s budget requests to the Office of Management and Budget Tuesday- it included at least 16 new positions, including six new Deputy Attorney Generals.

Jennings says delivering on these reforms is crucial to ensure public trust in state government.

“We loudly and proudly supported all of these bills,” says Jennings. “But the fact remains that they come with additional work for our staff on top of the already significant workload.”

Many of the Deputy Attorney General positions are in the Fraud & Consumer Protection Division. Jennings says her department needs to step up efforts to protect Delawareans from falling victim to fraud, whether it be worker’s rights or elder abuse.

Jennings is also asking for a few investigator positions; one focuses on supporting the investigation of use of force cases, something the DOJ is required to do. Another investigator position aims to tackle public corruption.

Jennings recently charged State Auditor Kathy McGuiness with multiple felonies and misdemeanors for actions taken in her position as auditor. Jennings says rebuilding trust with the public is an important job of the DOJ.

Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.