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Monday, June 20, 2011

Two Top Staffers To Depart Embattled D.A.'s Office

Posted By on Mon, Jun 20, 2011 at 9:58 PM

Embattled Deschutes County District Attorney Pat Flaherty has lost two of his two top staff members in a surprising shake-up in an office that has been defined by controversy.

In a Monday afternoon press release, Flaherty announced that his top prosecutor Traci Anderson and management analyst J. Patrick Horton have submitted their resignations.

Flaherty hired Anderson away from Multnomah County earlier this year to work as his chief deputy and called her departure a “huge loss” for his department. Flaherty said that Anderson had worked every major case and revamped how the office handles so-called Measure 11 crimes, those which carry a mandatory minimum sentence. However, her tenure was not without some friction. Flaherty clashed with Deschutes County brass over her hiring, primarily over the issue of compensation. But issues surrounding the chief deputy position dated to last year when Flaherty notified Anderson’s predecessor Darryl Nakahira that he intended to dismiss Nakahira when he took office in January. The notification, which came via letter created a wave of employee unrest in the office of departing district attorney Mike Dugan. Flaherty later informed several more veteran prosecutors that he intended to let them go as well when he took over. He ultimately dismissed five of Dugan’s former staffers amid a prolonged battle with the county over the staff’s right to unionize. Several of those staffers have filed a lawsuit against Flaherty over the termination.

With Anderson’s departure, it’s not immediately clear who will take over as Flaherty’s number two in July when she is scheduled to depart.

Flaherty also credited Horton with having a significant impact during his relatively short time in the office. The DA said Horton helped revamped the office’s procedural protocol and played an active role in this year’s budget process. Other sources have said that Horton is responsible for streamlining the grand jury process. Prior to coming to Deschutes County, Horton had served as Lane County DA for more than a decade.

Horton and Anderson are the second and third high-profile departures from the DA’s office during Flaherty’s brief tenure. Earlier this year former Deschutes County Sheriff Les Stiles resigned as a special investigator and security advisor. Stiles, however, has said that his departure was related to budget constraints and the temporary scope of his original employment agreement. Flaherty did not give a reason for the timing of the departure of Anderson and Horton and could not immediately be reached for comment.

Flaherty, who once worked as chief deputy in the prosecutor’s office under Dugan, also faces an ethics investigation from Oregon Bar Association over his decision to convene a grand jury to investigate county attorney Mark Pilliod’s release of personal information contained in the files of several employee’s from the DA’s office. Pilliod eventually apologized for the release, but an anonymous bar complaint alleges that Flaherty’s handling of the issue represented a conflict of interest.


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