Prosecutor resigns over stagnant salary

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OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - Winnebago County's lead prosecutor for violent crimes has resigned. Scott Ceman has been deputy district attorney in the county for almost ten years. He says he simply can't afford to continue working in public service.

For the past 12 years Scott Ceman has worked tirelessly for the citizens of Winnebago County, prosecuting the most violent criminals.

According to Ceman, "I've done a lot of homicides and by the grace of God or hard work, I've never dropped one. It takes a long time to get the ability to try one of those cases."

But 14 years after he started his law career with the state, Ceman says he simply can't afford to continue working as a prosecutor. The married father of three says repeated empty promises by state lawmakers to increase the salary of prosecutors and public defenders have led to his decision to resign.

"As you have a family and your kids get older and you realize living paycheck to paycheck, you need to focus on doing something for them for a change instead of the people in the community and with what the state pays, it's really just not a sustainable career," says Ceman.

State Representative Gordon Hintz of Oshkosh says Ceman isn't the first and probably won't be the last state employee to walk away because of a lack of pay. And while he doesn't have an answer to the million dollar question of how the state can expect to retain experienced prosecutors like Ceman, without paying them more, he knows change needs to happen.

Hintz says, "If we're going to require public employees to be able to do these jobs that are crucial to serving the public, we need to make sure that we're compensating them and the reality is that comes from our tax dollars. You can't get by on the cheap without some consequence and this is another loss."

Ceman hopes by speaking out, future prosecutors won't have to face the tough decision of walking away from a rewarding career. And he looks forward to opening his own private, more lucrative practice adding, "I'm not angry, I'm just going and so now I feel like there's hope where before, there wasn't, it was just getting by and not even really getting by and now it's a future full of a lot of hope."

Scott Ceman's last day working for the county is Friday, his private practice will open on Monday.