Deputy DA: 'What they're doing hurts our community'

ROSEBURG, Ore. -- The recently unionized Douglas County District Attorney's office has negotiated pay raises with the county, but it may mean the loss of a deputy DA.

Kathleen Johnson with the DA's office says that would cause problems that would be felt throughout the county. "What they're doing hurts our community," she said. "What they're doing is going to ensure more crimes go unprosecuted and unpunished, and that more crime will thrive in Douglas County."

Douglas County commissioners approved a contract with 10 deputy district attorneys, giving them an 8% pay raise next month.

It would also include a 2% increase for the next two years.

But the deputy district attorneys say they were caught off guard to learn one of them may be cut to go along with the pay increase. "Had they come to us and said, "We'll give you 8% but it's going to cost you a DDA," that's a discussion we would have liked to have," Johnson said.

Daniel Bouck, the director of the public defender's office, says it would have a negative effect on the entire judicial system. "It slows the whole system down, which isn't good for us or anybody," he said.

Johnson says the office is already stretched thin. "We prosecute an astronomical number of cases with a very small staff, and to take away a member of our staff will hurt community safety," she said. "We simply can not take on 10% of our workload, spread out over the remaining 9 attorneys. It can't be done."

Johnson says she believes cutting one of their union members doubles as a warning to keep other employees from unionizing.

The county human resources director, Michael Kurtz, says that simply isn't so.

He says the county has a neutral stance on unions, and won't prohibit members from unionizing.

Kurtz added that a final decision to cut a deputy district attorney hasn't been finalized.