By Jon Ortiz
jortiz@sacbee.com
Published: Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

For months, Attorney General Kamala Harris has warned that a mandated budget cut enacted by Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature last July would force her to let go of hundreds of Justice Department employees, most of them sworn officers.

Now, after several cost-cutting moves, Harris told staff this week that she’ll lay off just a third of the 322 jobs originally on the chopping block.

“We have been able to significantly reduce the impact these cuts will have on this department and reduce the number of sworn layoffs to 102 and the number of non-sworn to 21,” Harris said in a Tuesday department email obtained by The Bee.

The 2011-12 budget that took effect July 1 calls for a $35 million cut to the Justice Department’s Division of Law Enforcement budget and anticipates a similar slice for the next fiscal year.

Special agents of the division’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement took the biggest hit. The bureau, which works on drug cases and complex investigations with state, local and federal law enforcement, will be virtually eliminated.

Lawmakers and Brown mandated the cuts, so Harris couldn’t spread them to other units in her department. She lobbied to no avail for more money or to have discretion to spread the cuts as she saw fit.

Meanwhile a group representing special agents whose jobs are in jeopardy sued Brown and his finance director, Ana Matosantos, alleging that the layoffs are “obvious political retaliation” for their union’s endorsement of Brown’s Republican opponent in 2010.

They also have launched a media and Internet campaign to let Harris decide where to make department cuts.

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