I’m sure there will be more of this to come.
Harris County’s new district attorney made clear Friday that she will fire dozens of prosecutors in a massive shake-up when she takes office on Jan. 1.
Kim Ogg, who was elected in November as the county’s chief prosecutor, notified nearly 50 prosecutors and staffers Friday that their services will not be needed, according to sources connected to the office.
The terminations have long been expected as Ogg – who ran on a campaign of reform – installs her own lieutenants and administrators.
The district attorney’s office employs about 300 lawyers, with a well-established hierarchy that includes bureau chiefs, division chiefs and trial chiefs.
Several courthouse observers said emails went out to chiefs prosecutors, senior prosecutors and staff, such as investigators, notifying them that they would not be employed in Ogg’s administration although no specific names or numbers could immediately be independently verified.
Felony Judge Kristin Guiney, who lost her bid for re-election in the November election, posted on Facebook about the shake-up.
“A lot of exemplary prosecutors were told their services were no longer needed in the new administration,” she posted.
That was the early version of the story. The morning paper version has more details.
“Change is coming,” she told reporters after news broke that more than 10 percent of the 329 lawyers in the DA’s office would not be returning in the new year. “Like any good team that has suffered some under-performing seasons, we’re changing management. My administration is heading in a new direction.”
The terminations had been expected as Ogg – who ran on a campaign of reform – installs her own lieutenants and administrators with a new organizational structure.
Ogg said outgoing DA Devon Anderson’s administration asked that initial decisions be made before Ogg is sworn in.
The timing of the release, however, gave Anderson an opportunity to take a shot at her successor, releasing a statement that the new administration “fired by email 37 experienced prosecutors 9 days before Christmas.”
“With her first act as District Attorney, Ogg is endangering the citizens of Harris County,” Anderson said. “The dedicated prosecutors let go today had a combined 685 years of service.”
Ogg swiped back, noting that Anderson had refused to meet with her until Friday.
“The announcement by the current administration that this somehow makes people less safe is irresponsible,” Ogg said. “‘This decision does not make people less safe. It’s simply a change in management. The business of the DA’s office will go on.”
Widespread firings or personnel changes are not uncommon when a new official takes over a large agency. The DA’s office, which had been stable for decades, first saw massive change in 2008 when Republican Pat Lykos fired her predecessor’s top lieutenants after also winning on a reform platform.
Under Anderson, the district attorney’s office has a hierarchy that includes about six bureau chiefs, more than 20 division chiefs and dozens of trial and section chiefs who oversee staff lawyers.
Ogg got rid of a number of Anderson loyalists and some prosecutors tied to scandals that have erupted over Anderson’s three-year tenure.
Ogg said the majority of her termination decisions fell on longtime employees who worked as supervisors. She declined to discuss specific employees but said her primary focus was to eliminate management positions created by her predecessor.
“It’s a difficult process and one that is entirely necessary,” she said. “Of the lawyers who were released or given the opportunity to resign, most are eligible to retire. Few of them handle cases on a day-to-day basis.”
I noted before that this happened after Pat Lykos’ election in 2008 as well. It’s unfortunate for the people who are not being retained, but the writing has been on the wall for a long time. Ogg will be judged by how things go after January 1. She has a vision for what she wants to achieve, she won a resounding victory based on that, and she will get her chance to implement it. Murray Newman has an understandably different take, and the Press has more.