Circuit court layoffs cut staff in half

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Get ready to wait – the Dallas County court system is about to slow down.

That’s because today is the last day of work for six out of 12 employees with the Dallas County circuit clerk’s office. According to Dallas County Circuit Clerk Cheryl Strong, the layoffs could double the time it takes to resolve court cases.

The circuit clerk’s office handles court proceedings, filing papers, assisting the public and collecting fines in certain cases, to name a few. &uot;What we do is time consuming,&uot; Strong said.

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The layoffs are a result of Amendment One’s failure, according to Strong. If the $1.2 billion tax package had passed, funds would have been provided to an already strapped budget. &uot;Now that it hasn’t passed, we’re into the other alternative – layoffs,&uot; she added.

Strong’s office received word of the impending layoffs in September. It discovered who would lose their jobs at the end of October.

One employee who will lose her job today, Darlene Fletcher, court specialist level one, said she hoped funds would be found enabling the office to rehire her. &uot;I’m hoping that they’ll call us back as soon as possible,&uot; Fletcher added.

Fletcher handles traffic court, misdemeanor court and all the paperwork that comes along with them. &uot;We basically do all the paperwork that needs to be done on people that come to court.&uot;

Because employees such as Fletcher won’t be around after Thanksgiving, remaining employees must pick up the slack.

One employee who will keep her job, Gloria Page, circuit specialist level two, said the layoffs would greatly affect her office. &uot;Our workload will double if not treble,&uot; she said.

Fewer people in the office will mean additional duties for those who remain. &uot;We’ll do the best we can, but I’m sure they’ll be some people screaming about something,&uot; Page said.

Strong said the layoffs originated from the Administrative Office for Courts, a state office. The office chose who would be laid off based on their level and their past three evaluations. Strong noted that if funds were found to rehire people, they would be rehired in reverse order of their dismissal.

In the meantime, Strong must re-evaluate the office’s schedule. Because not enough employees exist to stagger lunch hours, the office might have to close during the day.

In an effort to locate funds, Strong spoke to both the Dallas County Commission and the Selma City Council on Monday. At the council meeting Strong said the layoffs would make it impossible for her office’s work to be done expeditiously. &uot;If there’s anything the city can do to save someone’s job, I’d greatly appreciate it,&uot; Strong said.

She added that $100,000 would be needed to make ends meet.