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Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Donna Taylor addresses Boone County Commissioner Brett Kuhn, President Craig Bratcher and Commissioner Jacob Messer Ph.D. (not pictured) on March 30 during a regular session meeting.

MADISON — Boone County Commissioners moved to support Prosecutor Donna Taylor in the hiring of a new assistant prosecutor on Tuesday.

Over the last 30 days, Taylor’s office has operated without two assistants after one resignation and one exit for which the Coal Valley News could not confirm the circumstances.

Additionally, the office has received a notice from an administrative assistant who is accepting a position in the Boone County Magistrate’s Office.

Taylor approached commissioners regarding her desire to hire Mark Browning at a rate of $90,000 annually. According to Taylor, Browning has been practicing law since 1985.

“His resume certainly speaks for itself,” said Commissioner Brett Kuhn, regarding the hiring of Browning.

Collectively, commissioners did not balk at hiring Browning based on experience, but they were concerned about the salary — in relation to Taylor’s budget and the need to hire another assistant prosecutor for her office.

Taylor expressed her recruitment effort moving forward.

“I’m going to send some information out to the law schools — to WVU, to Appalachian — the bar results for those who took the bar will be out April 1. We can start getting applications from them to see if there is any interest.”

Commission President Craig Bratcher responded, “So they would be right out of school, so their salary would be significantly less?”

Taylor said, “Yes, significantly less. It would be whatever is left in the budget for the other position.”

Commissioner Kuhn inquired into whether the salary for Browning is in line with what others around the state are making in the same seat.

Taylor stated that the salary is a slight bump (approximately $4,000 annually) from that of a previous assistant, but the experience Browning brings is substantially more extensive.

“I’m not saying that he doesn’t deserve this salary,” said Commissioner Jacob Messer, Ph.D. “I just worry that the budget…and where that leaves the second prosecutor’s salary.”

Taylor responded, “At $60,000, approximately.”

Bratcher said the county is waiting on the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office to approve the 2021-22 fiscal budget and that was the source of his hesitation.

“I understand that and I asked you guys for the budget and what you sent to the auditor’s office and that hasn’t been disclosed yet,” she said. “This is within the budget I have currently.”

After a lengthy discussion, Commissioners moved with a vote to support Taylor’s hiring of Browning.

“We can’t disclose or discuss the budget until it is approved,” added Bratcher. “That is where we’re at right now. I can say that you’re probably going to be a little over with this. Right now with what you have it is not but what you may be getting is going to be a little tighter.”

Taylor then stated, “You guys know what that number is and I was just asking you to be transparent so we’d know going forward when we hire.”

Kuhn then said, “I don’t think it is fair for us to throw numbers out until we see where we’re at. I think right now Miss Taylor is in dire need of an assistant prosecutor.”

Messer then made the motion for the support of the hire and Kuhn seconded the motion.

Browning’s start date in the Boone County Prosecutor’s Office will be April 12, pending the completion of a drug screen.

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry@hdmediallc.com or at 304-307-2401.

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