DALLAS — There was housecleaning at the Crowley Courthouse on Thursday. District Attorney Craig Watkins pink-slipped at least seven prosecutors, many of them veterans, who just happen to be on the other side of the political fence.
When Democrat Watkins was re-elected last month, he said his job wasn't about politics. "Let's put aside the Republican and Democrat aspects," he said then. "The people of Dallas County want us to do what's in their best interests."
A few days later, Watkins fired two of his prosecutors who attended a Republican rally.
And on Thursday, eight more staffers — seven of them prosecutors, many of them Republicans — got the axe. They were told the DA's office was going in a "different direction."
The Republicans say that's true; it's a new political direction.
"There are a lot of people who are surprised by this move, especially so late in the year," said Dallas County Republican Chair Jonathan Neerman. "It's two days before the swearing-in. If they're let go this late, a number of them are Republicans. Two of them are Republican judges; you have to believe there are politics involved in this."
Former prosecutor Toby Shook says Watkins' action is not unprecedented. "In the early 90s, there was one Friday seven people were fired," Shook said. "The thing about this is, with so many firings in one day, it can be something that can really hurt morale."
All prosecutors serve at the pleasure of the district attorney. In theory, anybody should be ready to be asked to leave at any time.
Everyone we talked to who lost their job said they realize that. This is just a particularly painful time of year to do it.
A spokeswoman for Watkins said the district attorney does not discuss personnel matters.