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GOP Reconsidering DetroitProsecutors in Wayne County warned Friday that a recent round of layoffs will stall criminal investigations, further bloat case backlogs and endanger public safety.

The office learned from the county late Thursday that it would be losing 22 attorneys, three investigators and a weekend clerical staff worker who were all contractual employees, according to a press release from the office of Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. The employees’ last day was Friday, a spokeswoman for the office said.

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“We have been warning the county for months that any reduction in staff would cause drastic actions to be taken and severely impair our mandated functions,” Worthy said in a statement. “(County executive) Robert Ficano has taken the irresponsible action of laying off people who work hard to prosecute criminals in my jurisdiction. The effect of these layoffs will affect the safety of the men, women and children in this county.”

But Ficano’s office shot back Friday, issuing a statement accusing Worthy of “using scare tactics as a cover for her deficit spending.”

“She was given notice in late February that these consultants’ (contracts) would not be extended beyond Feb. 28 because she is overspending her commission-approved budget,” Ficano spokeswoman June West said.

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Wayne County Commissioner Laura Cox said since the current fiscal year started Oct. 1, the prosecutor’s office has run up a $4 million deficit. Maria Miller, spokeswoman for the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, said Worthy’s office never had a deficit until this year, when the county “underfunded” its budget by about $9 million.

Last year, Worthy filed a lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court after county commissioners, at Ficano’s request, approved a $25.6-million budget for her office. Worthy said Ficano promised her, in a March 2010 memo of understanding, that she would receive $34.1 million.

Judge Wendy Baxter eventually lifted a temporary restraining order that kept the previous year’s budget in place. The lawsuit is still pending.

Worthy’s office said the layoffs would result in, among other things, having no attorneys to cover the domestic violence and traffic court dockets in the 36th District Court, delays in charging serious felonies cases because half of the warrants staff was laid off and delays in investigations.

Among those laid off were Chief of Appeals Timothy Baughman and Chief Assistant Richard Hathaway.

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