This story was updated at 6:23 p.m.
Before even being sworn in, District Attorney-elect Kim Ogg has turned the Harris County District Attorney's Office upside down.
In what is actually a courthouse rendition of How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Ogg told at least 37 prosecutors around noon Friday that they would be fired. At a press conference late Friday, Ogg said those prosecutors were almost all in leadership positions; 11 of the positions were middle-management and will not be restored.
Ogg said that the firings were part of her vision for a “culture change” at the DA's office — the issue on which she mounted her campaign. Some of the prosecutors were fired because of prosecutorial misconduct, some of which has been documented in “news stories,” Ogg said. (Here is one; the Houston Press has confirmed with multiple sources that the prosecutor at issue in this story has been fired.)
“Because the district attorney's job is to be the guardian of justice and to seek justice over convictions, I pledged that we would not have a win-at-all costs mentality, that we would prize fairness and transparency and equality,” she said. “And the leadership decisions that I made are directed to that view. I want individuals who, through their past actions and their professionalism, embody those very ideas. That's who I'm seeking to fill these positions.”
She did not offer much information on how the positions will be filled, but said she knows who some of the new hires will be. In comparison to past elections, most incoming district attorneys have fired eight to ten people upon taking office, a former prosecutor told the Press.
Ogg stressed that victims should not be concerned that their cases will be affected by the changes — yet current District Attorney Devon Anderson charged that the firings pose a public safety threat. Anderson has refused to meet with Ogg before she takes office, Ogg said.
In a statement released even before Ogg's own statement, Anderson said: “Today, Kim Ogg fired by email 37 experienced prosecutors 9 days before Christmas. With her first act as District Attorney, Ogg is endangering the citizens of Harris County. The dedicated prosecutors let go today had a combined 685 years of service.”
Ogg called the statement irresponsible, saying that the public should not be afraid and that business as usual will continue at the DA's office, with hundreds of other assistant district attorneys able to pick up the slack. There are currently 329 prosecutors on staff, meaning the ones Ogg let go make up about 10 percent of the force.
“While I'm not prepared to discuss specific dismissals, I will tell you that integrity will be the hallmark of this administration, and that every lawyer has a duty to the public, to themselves and to their client to perform each duty in an ethical fashion,” Ogg said.
Ogg added that management at the DA's office had asked her to make her decisions before January 1, when she takes office. “I could have waited until after January 1 to avoid the ba-humbug accusations, but I chose to respect their desire to know,” she said.
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