AG Hill defends pay hikes for top aides

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Some top aides to Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill have seen recent pay hikes of $9,000 or more, but Hill contends they are not rewards for sticking with him as he faces allegations of drunkenly groping four women during a party last year.

Hill said the pay raises are about being competitive, the Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne reported.

“While we are trying to protect our newer, greener people it’s also important we protect our more experienced people so we don’t lose those folks,” Hill said. “And not only protecting in terms of where we are today but part of my objective is to leave this office better than when I found it.”

The Republican attorney general has denied the allegations and a special prosecutor declined in October to pursue any criminal charges against him. The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, however, alleges Hill violated the professional conduct rules for attorneys and wants him to face disciplinary action from the state Supreme Court.

Hill’s chief deputy, former Dearborn-Ohio County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard, saw his salary increase about 10 percent, from $152,400 to more than $167,700. Solicitor General Thomas Fisher’s salary jumped 6.6 percent, from $135,300 to $144,400.

Other staff members saw similar pay raises.

Hill said it’s just the latest move in a three-phase effort to make the salaries in his office more comparable with those of other state agencies in addition to the private sector.

“We were lacking significantly in key player salaries, and we’re still not at the top of the heap,” he said.

For example, Hill said chief of staff Mary Beth Bonaventura accepted a $40,000 salary reduction when she first came to the office in early 2018 as special counsel after resigning as Gov. Eric Holcomb’s director of the Department of Child Services. The former Lake County juvenile court judge is now making nearly $170,000. But Hill noted other departments in Indiana’s government pay more for comparable posts.

The agency was losing valuable employees to other agencies often, which left the office with less experience and subsequently having to make frequent training investments, according to an internal study.

Hill noted the last phase in the wage equalization effort was approved this week and will be implemented later this month for an additional 60 staffers. The total cost will be around $384,000.

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