AUSTIN (KXAN) — At least eight and as many as 15 Travis County assistant district attorneys will be out of the job starting Dec. 31.
DA-elect Margaret Moore campaigned on the promise of bringing significant changes to the Travis County DA’s Office. In order to realize those changes, the new administration will be comprised of several new attorneys Moore is bringing in to the office. Moore told us she would be reorganizing and restructuring the office.
In an interview with KXAN on Nov. 2, Moore said, “It’s a challenging effort to make sure that we are prepared to make employment decisions and policy decisions promptly after the election.” She said the integrity of the office is her number one priority. “I believe it starts with examining the office afresh. This is the first time in 40 years that a new administration has come in, and it’s a good time to look under the hood, see what’s been going on before, and make the kinds of structural changes that fit the priorities that I have.”
Moore confirmed she is bringing in several new staffers including Mindy Montford, who will work as first assistant. Dexter Gilford will reportedly head a Civil Rights Unit, which the new administration will establish. Moore says Guillermo Gonzalez will be the director of the trial division and Rickey Jones will work with Gonzalez, serving as the assistant trial director.
Dayna Blazey will serve as the director of intake, Don Clemmer will head the Special Crimes Unit, which includes public integrity, and Gregg Cox will serve as the director of operations. In addition, Beverly Mathews will head the Special Victims Division, which includes but is not limited to family violence and child abuse cases, and finally, Mike Lummus will serve as the DA office’s chief investigator. Lummus retired Oct. 31 as chief of the Lockhart Police Department.
“Everyone that is gonna be working for me is extremely excited and energetic, and ready to take on the new day,” said Moore.
In a Facebook post, Assistant District Attorney Kelsey McKay said she and many of her colleagues have been asked to resign:
While I do not intend to turn in my resignation this morning as so many of my amazing colleagues (including myself) have been asked to do, I will no longer be a prosecutor in Travis County next year. Given how this transition was handled I am steadfast and confident that it is the right thing for me and my family. The method by which it was delivered gives me clear guidance that I do not belong in this new phase of the District Attorney‘s Office. Perhaps I never did. I know that this will come as a relief to some and a shock to others.
McKay, along with other attorneys who will not return to the office Jan. 1, said they are not concerned for their futures, but for the future of domestic and family violence victims in Travis County.
The SAFE Alliance, which stands for ‘Stop Abuse For Everyone,’ released this statement Friday to KXAN:
The SAFE Alliance — a merger between Austin Children’s Shelter and SafePlace — is watching the changes at the Travis County District Attorney’s Office closely. For many years, we have worked closely with several of the individuals whose positions are being terminated. Many of the people in question are considered national experts in their fields, and we have great respect for them. We count on this office to hold offenders accountable. Lives are literally at stake.”
Among the list of Moore’s priorities, she said, are efforts to deal with family violence cases in Travis County. Moore said they will form a family violence unit to address the high number of cases that have been filed.
She said the new administration will work jointly with the county attorney’s office to “maximize efficiency and effectiveness” with a joint program. She says the new office will enhance the prosecution of family violence cases by adding two intake attorneys and eight attorneys — one in each district court — dedicated to these cases. Moore said every lawyer will be trained in prosecuting family violence cases.
On Nov. 2, Moore also said, “This community has demonstrated to me a huge outpouring of good will for a new administration and a huge desire for us to be successful. It is my goal, and I believe we will achieve, bringing that office to a high level of performance and effectiveness. There are good people working there, and I want to lead them to a day when they can be very proud of the office they work for.”
Moore will take over from District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who did not run for reelection.