Attorney hired for Clay County civil cases claims salary unfair
A local attorney says Clay County officials are not playing fair when it comes to pay.
MOORHEAD — The law requires that counties contract with attorneys to represent people in civil commitment or guardianship cases who cannot afford legal help. But one attorney says while her workload has increased, her pay has not. She says the salaries for two other attorneys doing civil cases in Clay County make nearly double that amount.
Hannah Scheidecker of Fremstad Law not only spends time working on cases involving commitment and guardianship, she is on Zoom or in a Clay County courtroom when a judge hears a commitment or guardianship case involving one of Scheidecker's clients.
Clay County has been paying Scheidecker on a contract of $36,000 a year, but Scheidecker's issue is with Clay County's contract with two other attorneys representing clients in civil child protection cases.
According to Scheidecker, the other attorneys are earning $72,000 — two times her salary.
"I am being paid half and I am putting in, depending on the quarter, 75% to 100% more hours," Scheidecker said.
While Clay County administrators said child protection cases can involve significantly more time spent on each case, Scheidecker said she is not getting paid what the Minnesota state statute requires. Reasonable compensation.
"It seems that my services are somehow less valuable than their (CHIPS attorneys) services, is what it appears to be," Scheidecker said.
But Clay County said her contract was signed and terms were agreed to months ago and there are no plans to significantly increase the pay. According to the county, it has acted in good faith.
"Not only do we have a responsibility to the people that (Scheidecker) serves, and (that) contract serves, but we also have a responsibility to our citizens, from a taxpayer standpoint. So we want to have as much of an understanding of what that's going to cost the county as we can," said Clay County Administrator Stephen Larson.
When Scheidecker asked Clay County to bump her pay from $3,000 to $6,000 a month, the county countered with an offer of $4,500. Twice.
Scheidecker points to this as proof she is being treated unfairly. She says while her caseload has skyrocketed, her salary has remained flat. According to her, pay for the two attorneys doing similar contract work for Clay County has gone up.