For months, Attorney General Kamala Harris has warned that a mandated budget cut enacted by Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature last July would force her to let go of hundreds of Justice Department employees, most of them sworn officers.
Now, after several cost-cutting moves, Harris told staff this week that she'll lay off just a third of the 322 jobs originally on the chopping block.
"We have been able to significantly reduce the impact these cuts will have on this department and reduce the number of sworn layoffs to 102 and the number of non-sworn to 21," Harris said in a Tuesday department email obtained by The Bee.
The 2011-12 budget that took effect July 1 calls for a $35 million cut to the Justice Department'sDivision of Law Enforcement budget and anticipates a similar slice for the next fiscal year.
Special agents of the division's Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement took the biggest hit. The bureau, which works on drug cases and complex investigations with state, local and federal law enforcement, will be virtually eliminated.
Lawmakers and Brown mandated the cuts, so Harris couldn't spread them to other units in her department. She lobbied to no avail for more money or to have discretion to spread the cuts as she saw fit.
Meanwhile a group representing special agents whose jobs are in jeopardy sued Brown and his finance director, Ana Matosantos, alleging that the layoffs are "obvious political retaliation" for their union's endorsement of Brown's Republican opponent in 2010.
They also have launched a media and Internet campaign to let Harris decide where to make department cuts.
"If we're not going to do that, why not have the governor just appoint the AG?" said Mike Loyd, president of the state Association of Special Agents.
When asked if Harris' latest layoff announcement satisfied his members, Loyd said, "Absolutely not."
Justice Department spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill said that Harris found some savings by closing division field offices in Redding, San Jose and Orange and consolidating a Sacramento field office with the department's headquarters.
Those moves, along with "a lot" of officers leaving for other jobs or retiring, pushed down costs and lowered the number of looming layoffs, Gledhill said.
Harris and department officials haven't decided whether the 84-year-old Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement will survive.
"They may be part of some sort of restructuring, but that's not final yet," Gledhill said. "We'll have to figure out which programs we'll continue to participate in."