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  • Writer's pictureRoger Sims, Journal Staff

County attorney offers to stay on, but only with added help

PLEASANTON – Less than three weeks after Linn County Attorney Burton Harding announced that he intended to resign his post, it now looks like he may continue to be a part-time prosecutor as long as county commissioners approve his hiring of an additional part-time assistant.

During a special convention of the Linn County Republican Central Committee on Thursday, March 2, the quorum of precinct committee members voted to keep Harding as county attorney with the stipulation that the Linn County Commission would agree to hire additional help.

Following state statutes, the committee was forced to convene the meeting following Harding’s resignation and his notice to leave the post on March 31.

County GOP chair Jackie Taylor said that early on Thursday there was only one candidate for the job, Tiana McElroy, the county attorney for Bourbon County.

However, at about 11 a.m. that morning, McElroy called Taylor to say she was withdrawing her application and would remain at Bourbon County.

Without a candidate for the post and faced with the prospect of Amy Harth, head judge of the 6th Judicial District, drafting an attorney to fill the job, Harding volunteered to stay on. However, he said he would only stay on as a part-time prosecutor and with the condition that he could keep Justin Meeks as a part-time assistant and hire a second assistant to help handle the workload.

When Harding informed the Linn County Commission on Feb. 13 that he would be submitting his resignation, he told commissioners that it was no longer possible for the county attorney post to be a part-time position, which as far as anyone can recall, it has been. With the number of cases needing prosecution, the county needed a full-time prosecutor plus a part-time assistant.

Linn County 6th District Judge Andrea Purvis a week later told commissioners the same thing. Although the commission did vote to make the position full-time, it did not follow Harding’s recommendation to make the salary $130,000 a year. Instead the salary was set at $120,000.

Harding’s salary is about $87,000 annually, and his assistant’s part-time salary is $43,000.

At the time of his resignation, Harding said that he was able to keep his private practice going as long as the prosecutor’s job was a part-time position. However, he said if he had to choose between being a full-time county prosecutor or running a private practice, having his own practice would be his choice. He also said that he was more able to schedule his time around family needs with a private practice.

Under what Harding called “Plan B,” he would continue to work as head prosecutor part-time for the same salary until the end of his term in at the end of 2024. Meeks, his assistant who had also tendered his resignation, has agreed to continue to work as a part-time assistant.

It will now be up to the Linn County Commission to determine if they will pay for the additional part-time help. That issue is likely to surface at the next commission meeting on Monday, March 6.

As for McElroy, both Taylor and Harding said that the Bourbon County Commission offered her a salary raise so she would stay. Both also said she will not be getting as much money as the Linn County job would have paid.

The lack of candidates for the prosecutor post point to a recognized shortage of attorneys in rural Kansas.

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