Custer Co. DA Leaves Post After 12 Years

Monday, March 10th 2014, 11:25 pm
By: News 9

Budget cuts and furloughs have a district attorney fed up. He said it's a problem across the state. Now, he's calling it quits after more than a decade on the job.

Dennis Smith oversees five counties as the district attorney in western Oklahoma. He admits, he's been thinking about leaving the post for several months now, but he said his already small staff is having to do more with less.

"In 2008, I think I had 32 employees," said Smith. "I've now got 20."

Those 20 employees are spread throughout five offices in western Oklahoma.

After 12 years as the DA, and eight as an assistant for Custer, Beckham, Ellis, and Roger Mills counties, Smith said it's time to hand over the reins.

"Dealing with budget issues every year has not been fun," Smith added.

Smith said he's had to cut nearly half a million dollars from his operating budget since 2009, and his office has also lost more than $300,000 in appropriated funds over the past five years.

He said it's an issue in district attorney offices across the state.

"I've been disappointed in the general attitude about how state employees are viewed and how they've been treated, you know, that's frustrating," said Smith. "And it's not frustrating to me, it's frustrating in my feeling to my employees."

Smith's staff is currently on a two day furlough in an effort to cut costs. It's also the second round of furloughs in the past two years.

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"That's been particularly distasteful of me simply because I'm hurting the people that I depend on the most," Smith said.

He said his retirement is not solely based on constant budget woes, but more for personal reasons, and it's time for someone else to take the post. But, he said continuous budget concerns take away from the core function of his job.

"Which is to protect the public, seek justice. That's what you want to spend your time doing, not trying to figure out, well, where can we get funds to this, or do we have enough to make payroll," said Smith. "I'm not the first one to face this, and I won't be the last one."

Smith's last day on the job will be December 31, 2014, which is also the end of his term.