No job losses in DA's office

No staff members in the district attorney’s office will lose their jobs, the district attorney for the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit said Friday.

“I am proud to say that each member of the current staff is a valued asset to this office,” Julia Slater said in a statement. “I have been impressed with each individual’s aptitude for their position and dedication to the work of the office. I feel their skills and enthusiasm could not be replaced by anyone from outside the office. For these reasons, I am making no dismissals.”

Slater, who became the first woman to hold the office with her November defeat of former District Attorney Gray Conger, said she had six positions to fill, including four attorneys and two secretaries. On Friday, she said three attorneys and one secretary have been hired, leaving two positions open. Those slots will be filled soon as applicants are considered.

The district attorney said the announcement on the positions were made during a 3 p.m. meeting with employees.Before Slater took office, Conger had placed most of this staff under the merit system, a move that would require employees to be fired for cause.

While Conger thought the employees were protected, Slater pointed to two state statutes that indicated employees in her office were employed “at will.” One covered the positions of assistant district attorneys and another for staffers in the office, all serving at will, she said.

In the end, provisions of the state laws didn’t apply to Friday’s announcement.Slater said that while she chose to keep the entire staff, “I didn’t have to.”

Other than the two open positions, Slater’s staff of 45 people is almost complete with 21 attorneys, eight administrative positions, five victim/witness staffers, an office manager and eight investigators.

Among the new employees are attorney David Ranieri, a former assistant solicitor general who served in the Army; attorney Jennifer Dunlap who will join the staff on Monday; and Edward F. Berry, a former assistant district attorney who will join the staff Feb. 9. Berry was a former partner in Berry, Shelnutt & Day, where Slater worked before her election.Slater said Brandy Rivera, a secretary from her private practice, will be her secretary.

No one lost his or her job, she said, but some assistants left before the end of last year, and other assistants and secretaries went to other jobs. After taking office, Slater said she gave no indication to any of the employees that they wouldn’t have a job if they wanted to stay.

“It was not a difficult decision,” Slater said of keeping the existing staff. “I am proud to work with these people.”