VB budget helps narrow pay gap between public defenders, prosecutors

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The salary disparity between Virginia Beach prosecutors and public defenders is growing narrower.

The city’s new budget for fiscal year 2022 included a $500,000 funding boost for the public defender’s office.

The starting salary for a Virginia Beach prosecutor is a little more than $70,000. Public defenders start at around $50,000.

With the funding boost, the two sides will now be closer, but still not exactly even.

They should start seeing the pay increase starting this fall.

“I was extraordinarily surprised to see the disparity,” said Virginia Beach City Councilman Michael Berlucchi.

The city gives the Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office an extra $6 million a year. That money is for the department’s programs and activities, but is also used to enhance salaries. Public defenders say it gives Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle an unfair advantage.

“Obviously he is able to offer more in salary,” said Virginia Beach Head Public Defender Cal Bain.

“This is a result of a policy that the city adopted think with good intentions to supplement the salaries and resources for the commonwealth’s attorney’s office, but the result of that supplement has been the creation of disparity,” Berlucchi added.

Many times, public defenders are forced to leave in search of more money, sometimes even going on become prosecutors. Stolle has been very vocal about getting two sides even.

“I’m excited for my people,” Bain said. “It will take some of the stress off them trying to get by on the salary that we earn. Council listened and made some money for us. While it won’t get us to parity, it is certainly a great step in that direction.”

It would take another $400,000 to get both sides on the level ground. Berlucchi led the charge with his fellow members.

“Nothing is easy, but it was worth the fight,” he said.

Public defender say they plan to lobby City Council again next year to make things level. Council says it will listen.

“I think that the principle of parity and that our scales of justice are balanced, is one that is virtuous and it is one that is worthy of our consideration now and into the future,” Berlucchi added.

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