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Employees in Bill Lockyer’s office are reeling this week over a bombshell announcement informing them that 118 deputy attorneys general and 167 support and administrative staff could face layoffs this year unless the office can come up with some other way to plug a $10 million budget shortfall in the Department of Justice’s $607 million budget. Layoffs require a mandated 120-day notice period that would commence later this month, which would allow affected employees to exercise their right to preferred hiring in other departments. “This is unprecedented,” said Kyle Brodie, a deputy attorney general and secretary of CASE — California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment — the union that represents the state’s 1,038 deputy attorneys general. “To my knowledge, DAGs have never received layoff notices.” Brodie said union leaders were informed of the potential layoffs during meetings with managers on June 30. Attorney General Lockyer himself dropped in on a July 1 CASE meeting in Oakland, and, according to union members present, advised employees vulnerable to layoffs — new hires with less than three years on the job — to begin looking for jobs. News of the possible job losses hit employees hard over the Fourth of July holiday. “I have been an attorney for almost 10 years, and literally, morale has never been lower,” said Patrick Whalen, a deputy AG who is also part of the CASE bargaining unit and treasurer of the California Association of Deputy Attorneys General, a professional organization. Whalen and others said the layoffs are likely to hit young hires, particularly in the energy task force created to pursue cases stemming from the state’s energy crisis and in the criminal unit, which is typically staffed by a disproportionate number of new hires. Some deputies predicted that the threat of layoffs might be enough to encourage some of those hires to find other work. “The best and brightest young stars are on the chopping block and will leave,” predicted Whalen. Lockyer’s two chief deputies, Steven Coony and Richard Frank, sent employees a formal e-mail announcement on Friday. The note expressed sympathy to “our co-workers who get a notice, as well as their families, friends and colleagues.” The two also stated that DOJ management is “working very hard to find enough savings this year from non-personnel costs in the legal divisions to eliminate or greatly reduce the number of layoffs.” Frank and Coony described the potential $10 million shortfall as resulting from a “perfect storm” of revenue and expenditure problems that had been brewing for more than a decade.” Holes existed in the DOJ budget as early as January, but department officials had hoped that layoffs could be avoided by cost-cutting measures and employee attrition, as had been the case in previous years. “We’re out of tricks,” said Nathan Barankin, a department spokesman. Barankin added that the department had, in the past three fiscal years, given up “well over 500 positions” and returned “tens of millions” of general fund revenue. “There are no more rabbits to pull out of the hat,” he added. Some union members said they weren’t entirely sure that the layoff threat wasn’t also intended to intimidate CASE members, who have been working without a contract for more than a year. DAGs have for years complained about salaries that they say are between 10 percent and 20 percent lower than comparable district attorney posts around the state. But even union members acknowledged that budget realities are bleaker than usual. “This is the worst it’s ever been,” said Whalen. “I think there are some bodies that we are going to be losing.”

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