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Texas district attorney embroiled in high-profile salary dispute

Being a district attorney pays well in Texas, especially in certain counties. That is at least the case for Joe Shannon, the former state representative that was appointed as Tarrant County’s DA in 2009 by Gov. Rick Perry. His case may be one of the highest profile employment-related disputes the state will resolve this year, with employment benefits and overall compensation in question.

Shannon’s case stems from changes to state law and is complicated further by his pension, a yearly benefit paid as a result of his time in the Texas legislature. When he originally took the Tarrant County job, he was required to forfeit that yearly compensation, which totaled around $37,000 in 2009. Last year, though, the state changed course, allowing people like Shannon to receive a pension while also receiving a salary. This bumped his total package up significantly, giving him total compensation of close to $240,000. That amount, it seems, was too much to bear for the Tarrant County commissioners, who reduced his salary by almost 20-percent in the recent state budget. 

Shannon is now in a difficult position, forced to argue for his promised salary while maintaining relationships in the county. It is a situation faced by many lower-profile employees each day across Texas. Though their cases rarely reach the news, employees are often forced to make a choice between pursuing a breach of contract lawsuit or keeping the peace in their current position.

The resolution of Shannon’s case remains to be seen, as the county has the power to set the district attorney’s salary, and his new figure may be more in line with what prosecutors are paid throughout the state. The new budget denies him previously agreed upon compensation, though, and this may be problematic.

Employees in Texas who are caught in similar dilemmas may have the right to fight for their compensation under the law. In order to do so it may be necessary to seek legal counsel.

Source: Star-Telegram, “Tarrant district attorney in dispute over salary,” Sept. 12, 2013

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