AG boosts staffers’ salaries

Published 9:35 pm Monday, July 28, 2008

MONTGOMERY – Attorney General Troy King has used his appointment authority to boost the salaries of some of his top aides, including one with no legal experience who was designated as a paralegal making more than $104,000 annually.

In another case, one person went from being an unpaid summer intern to a chief aide making $57,000 annually. And an employee got a nearly $30,000 salary boost after taking a leave of absence to manage King’s campaign.

King spokesman Chris Bence told The Birmingham News that several employees were given new titles, which allowed their salaries to go up, but their responsibilities also increased.

Bence was among those benefiting from the raises.

Bence, 61, serves as King’s spokesman and chief of staff. But in state personnel records, he’s listed as a paralegal. King sought that designation for Bence this spring although Bence acknowledges he has no legal experience or training. Bence’s new job title allowed King to increase his salary from just more than $94,000 a year to just more than $104,400.

State law allows the attorney general to appoint five paralegals but does not specify qualifications for the positions. Paralegals normally assist lawyers with the preparation of cases.

Bence said the attorney general is not bound to fill the paralegal slot with a trained paralegal.

“The titles are all flexible,” he said.

He said King gave him the appointment and raise to make up for three years he did not receive a raise.

Another employee, John W. Godwin, started working in the attorney general’s office last summer as an unpaid intern while finishing his senior year at Troy University.

Godwin, now 24, moved quickly to a post paying $10 per hour. Then in July 2007, King appointed him as a special administrative assistant earning $39,456 a year. He completed his degree in broadcast journalism in December, and on March 27 was named to his current title of executive assistant.

State records show the job pays $57,504 annually.

“J.W. is an exceptional young man who is the chief aide to the attorney general and who is almost indispensable in terms of the many functions he carries out in this office,” Bence told the newspaper. Bence said Godwin’s duties include policy research and constituent relations, and he serves as a liaison between the attorney general and the staff.

Godwin travels with King as part of his duties, such as accompanying him to this year’s National Association of Attorneys General Conference.

King got appointed attorney general in 2004 by Gov. Bob Riley. When King ran for a full term in 2006, Kenneth Steely was working in the job Godwin now holds. Steely had a law degree and was making $67,000.

Steely took a leave of absence from the attorney general’s office to run King’s campaign and resigned in October of that year. On. Nov. 17, 2006 – 10 days after King’s victory – the attorney general wrote the state Personnel Department naming Steely a deputy attorney general with a salary of $95,949 a year.

Bence said Steely was offered the nearly $30,000 raise to try to keep him from leaving for private practice. But a year later, Steely did leave King’s staff for private practice.

The departure didn’t end his ties to King. Last month the attorney general’s office hired Steely as a contract lawyer to help handle gambling litigation. Bence said Steely had become an expert on the issue while working in the attorney general’s office.