Two officials quit rather than cut

    COQUILLE — Two county officials in Southern Oregon say they are quitting rather than go through with the budget cuts rippling through the state’s timber region.

    Local officials will have to make big cuts, despite a one-year stopgap measure approved this week in the Congress, said Coos County District Attorney Paul Burgett.

    “At this stage of my career I don’t care to preside over the disarray of the criminal justice system in this county,” Burgett told The World of Coos Bay. “Coos County, and several other counties, are going to be in dire financial straits for the foreseeable future.”

    The Coos County commissioners have already laid off nearly 70 county employees, including about 40 sheriff’s deputies and two of Burgett’s employees. The county’s jail population has been cut back, resulting in early release for those convicted of lesser offenses.

    Burgett, 59, said he would leave office Dec. 31 and has already sent his resignation letter to Gov. Ted Kulongoski. He has held elective office for nearly three decades and had won re-election as district attorney in 2004. The governor will appoint a successor, and the office will be on the ballot next year.

    In Douglas County, Mike Smith, director of the county Mental Health Division, said he couldn’t support eliminating up to 13 positions in the new budget year beginning July 1.

    Smith had moved from Michigan one year ago to take the position.

    Smith had proposed asking employees to agree to reduce their weekly hours from 40 to 36 to avoid layoffs, the Roseburg News-Review reported.

    “My previous experience in dealing with major budget cuts tells me that shared sacrifice is an essential element in maintaining the organizational constancy of purpose and the mission focus that is necessary for staff well-being and effective service delivery,” Smith wrote in a letter to his supervisor. “That sense of shared purpose is particularly essential in times of crisis.”

    — The Associated Press

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