A top administrator in the Spokane County prosecutor’s office is the latest casualty in a continuing post-election shake-up.
Office manager Cliff Collier was clearing off his desk Wednesday after being fired by newly elected Prosecutor Jim Sweetser.
Collier said the move came as a surprise since Sweetser twice promised during the campaign that his job was secure.
“His final words to me were, `You just have to trust me,”’ Collier said.
“He can say whatever he wants to,” countered Sweetser. “I’m just trying to do the best thing for the community and the public - to move the office forward.”
Jim Emacio, who supervises the civil division, said Collier lost his job because he wasn’t the best-qualified person to carry out Sweetser’s “new management approach.”
Collier’s replacement, Travis O. Jones, starts today. The former Air Force colonel was picked from 73 applicants, according to Emacio.
Besides Collier, five other employees have been fired by Sweetser in the past six weeks.
Tana Jenecke, administrative assistant;
Dorothy Scott, victim-assistance unit director;
Jennifer Boharski, senior deputy prosecutor;
Michelle Solinsky, deputy prosecutor;
John Krall, deputy prosecutor.
Sweetser is being sued for wrongful termination by four of the former employees.
Attorneys Carl Maxey and Dennis Cronin accuse Sweetser of violating his campaign pledge to fire employees only for “just cause,” such as demonstrated incompetence.
Maxey claims Sweetser illegally got rid of the employees for political reasons, because they supported his opponent last fall.
A two-day trial is scheduled next week in Spokane County Superior Court.
Collier said he was loyal to former Prosecutor Don Brockett, which made him a political enemy in Sweetser’s eyes.
But Collier said he would have been just as dedicated to Sweetser - if given the chance.
“I was loyal to Brockett because he was my boss,” he said.
Collier, who earned about $51,000 a year, worked on the budget and supervised the office’s non-legal staff for four years.
He began fearing for his job shortly after Sweetser took office.
He said Sweetser kept him at arm’s length, preventing him from playing a major role in a sweeping office overhaul, including creation of 10 prosecution “teams” and elimination of middle-management positions.
Before getting the ax, Collier landed a business-manager job at Geiger Corrections Center.
The new assignment, however, comes with a substantial pay cut, he said.
Sweetser said employees in his office have no reason to worry about job security.
All of the anticipated hiring and firing is now complete, he said. “There’s no more changes planned at this point - that I foresee.”