EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A prosecutor at the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office says he’s concerned about an impending dismissal of more than 50 staff members.
In a video posted Wednesday on social media, Assistant District Attorney James Montoya said incoming El Paso County DA Yvonne Rosales has notified 30 prosecutors they would be terminated effective Jan. 1. Two dozen investigators, advocates and secretaries also have been told they will no longer be needed, according to Montoya.
He said nearly all of the attorneys that will be terminated were on the special prosecution unit or felony trial section, which handle the county’s most serious felony cases. The El Paso County DA’s Office is set to prosecute alleged Walmart mass shooter Patrick Wood Crusius.
“The sheer number of firings is staggering. I cannot begin to quantify the institutional knowledge and experience that will be lost,” Montoya said. “I cannot overemphasize the profound and detrimental impact these departures will have not only on the day to day (work) of the DAs office, but in our criminal justice system, our local working relationship with our law enforcement agencies… and my greatest fear (is) the safety of our community.”
He added that such “massive turnover” means some cases, victims and defendants won’t receive proper attention or “simply will fall through the cracks.”
Late on Wednesday, Rosales released a statement expressing her disappointment at Montoya and vowing to appoint experienced professionals to her staff.
“I am disappointed that the irresponsible actions of my former opponent are disruptive to the working relationship that I have recently developed with Jaime Esparza. The current DA and I have been working together to ensure a smooth transition into office on January 1st,” Rosales said. “I want to assure the community that the new administration will be staffed with very experienced and well-rounded individuals who will enable this administration to carry out its mission of protecting the members of our community and make sure that Justice is Served.”
Outgoing District Attorney Jaime Esparza earlier had sent a statement addressing the transition of power.
“My priority is to ensure that the transition of the District Attorney’s Office to the new administration goes as smoothly as possible. I am working hard so the new administration has the tools they need to succeed for the benefit of the community,” Esparza said
Montoya said all 200 employees at the DA’s Office were asked by Rosales or her leadership team to reapply for their jobs. He said he decided not to reapply.
“It became very clear that Ms. Rosales and I had very divergent prosecution philosophies and values and very different ideas of what we would change” at the DA’s office, Montoya said in the video.
Rosales last July defeated Montoya in the Democratic Party runoff election for District Attorney for the 34th Judicial District, which represents the state and victims of crime committed in El Paso, Culberson and Hudspeth counties.