I read with shock the news regarding the county budget committee's recent ambush of District Attorney Joshua Marquis' modest salary ("Marquis pay cut: 'It's spitting in my face,'" The Daily Astorian, May 15).
I will confess from the beginning that I am Marquis' sister-in law, so perhaps many will think my opinion is biased. But I am also a lawyer who has seen Marquis in action, and my respect for his professionalism and expertise will not allow me to sit idly by and watch while his livelihood is being assaulted without due process.
The budget committee's meeting agenda called for consideration of whether to retain funding for two existing positions within the heavily burdened district attorney's office. Once the committee agreed to retain these needed positions, County Commissioner Jeff Hazen introduced a separate "spontaneous" motion to cut Marquis' salary by 15 percent. Amazingly, this motion passed.
Hazen's pretextual excuse for this motion was that Hazen did not think the county should have to "subsidize" the state by continuing to pay the salary supplement that Marquis has been receiving since his second year of office in 1995. Why did he wait until now to bring up the issue?
And why did Hazen not give Marquis prior notice and a meaningful opportunity to respond? Does this strike the citizens of Clatsop County as an appropriate way to treat the four-time elected leader of the county's prosecutorial office?
Marquis' salary, even with the county's traditional supplementation, deeply undervalues the services he provides and the skills he brings to every prosecution. There are few lawyers in the country who can match Marquis on complicated criminal matters, particularly death penalty cases. His depth and breadth of knowledge of criminal law is worth every single penny.
If you drive a man of Marquis' talent away with such insulting behavior, you may somehow miraculously convince another lawyer to take the low-paying Clatsop County district attorney job, but it will be years and years (if ever) until you have another district attorney as seasoned, efficient and adept as Marquis.
Frankly, I have never known anyone who works harder than Marquis. Even on the rare occasion when he actually takes a day or two of vacation, he is never really "off work." He is constantly in contact with his deputies, law enforcement, and other county officials, working incessantly to make sure that every complicated step of the criminal prosecution process runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible. We have to beg him to turn off his cell phone during Thanksgiving dinner.
The county budget committee should be deeply ashamed.
Elizabeth Price Foley
Key Largo, Fla.