An audit released today by State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump found that state funding for an initiative to improve the retention of experienced assistant district attorneys (ADAs) across the Commonwealth appears to have been successful. However, the audit cautions that the long-term success of this effort could be limited without changes. This finding is included in an audit examining the Massachusetts District Attorney Association (MDAA).
To support the program’s long-term success, Bump calls on MDAA to work with lawmakers to develop a more comprehensive funding strategy to allow District Attorney’s offices to provide permanent salary increases to ADAs with at least three years of experience, rather than providing one-time bonuses. She also encourages the MDAA to develop a long-term strategy for addressing other factors contributing to high turnover rates.
“Justice and the taxpayers are served when we have experienced individuals representing the Commonwealth in courts of law. Since its inception, the ADA retention fund has helped to keep talented and experienced individuals working in District Attorney’s offices across the state,” Bump said of the audit. “I encourage lawmakers to take a close look at this fund and explore opportunities to increase its predictability and stability to support its long-term success.”
Additionally, the audit encourages MDAA to improve its monitoring of how the retention funds are spent to ensure they are used to increase compensation for more experienced ADAs. The audit notes that some DA’s offices used these funds to offset budget cuts, rather than for their intended purpose.
In fiscal year 2012, the state Legislature began allocating funds to the MDAA to disburse to District Attorney’s (DAs) offices to increase compensation for more experienced ADAs with the goal of improving retention rates. The audit found that since those funds were first allocated, turnover rates of experienced ADAs in the Commonwealth have fallen significantly. The average ADA turnover rate was 13.5 percent in fiscal year 2011 (the year before these retention funds were first allocated) and had dropped to 5.4 percent in fiscal year 2017. Funding was also allocated for this initiative in FY18 and is included in the House of Representative’s FY19 budget proposal, which is being debated this week.
State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump’s audit notes that since the implementation of the ADA retention fund, average ADA turnover rates have fallen from 13.5 percent, to 5.4 percent.
Analysis by Bump’s office found that during the three-year audit period, 28 percent of ADAs with three or more years of experience who left DA offices went to work for other state agencies and on average received a 20 percent increase in compensation.
The Massachusetts District Attorney Association supports the eleven elected DAs in Massachusetts and their staff. It also administers grants and other legislatively appropriated funding to these offices. It has 11 full-time employees, including an executive director appointed by the Commonwealth’s DAs.