Employees in Bibb County DA’s office put on notice about jobs

awomack@macon.comDecember 20, 2012 

A week before the new district attorney for the Macon Judicial Circuit is sworn in, four staffers have been told that they will either be fired in January or that their futures in that office are uncertain.

Three of the employees are prosecutors: Kim Schwartz, a narcotics prosecutor who has worked in the office for 25 years; Gary Wood, a violent crimes prosecutor who has worked at the office for 10 years, four of them as an attorney; and Ashley Cooper, a juvenile crimes prosecutor hired three years ago.

The fourth is a victims advocate.

Wood got the news Wednesday afternoon following the office’s Christmas party.

He said a “third party” told him he wouldn’t be an assistant district attorney once District Attorney-elect David Cooke takes office. He hasn’t been contacted by Cooke directly.

Cooke, a Houston County prosecutor, is scheduled to be sworn in Dec. 27 and will take office in January. He defeated Greg Winters in the November general election.

Two additional prosecutors have filed notices that they’re leaving the office.

Cliff Woody, a Peach County prosecutor, is retiring.

Sharell Lewis, a property crimes prosecutor working out of the Bibb County office, has accepted another job.

Lewis launched an unsuccessful bid for district attorney in 2010. In the days leading up to the 2012 election, she authored a letter to the editor criticizing Cooke’s campaign and voicing support for Winters.

Although she hasn’t spoken with Cooke directly since the election, she said she started looking for a job.

“I just felt like, reading the writing on the wall, it would be in everyone’s interest if I was prepared,” Lewis said.

A hiring freeze imposed by the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of Georgia could delay rehiring for staff paid from state coffers. Some circuit prosecutor positions are state-funded while others are funded by the county taxes.

Salaries for two of the prosecutors in flux are paid by the state.

Cooke said he hasn’t taken any official action pertaining to personnel matters, but that the council has said there will be exceptions to the hiring freeze for newly elected district attorneys.

He said any additional comment before his taking office would be inappropriate.

The Macon Judicial Circuit has 22 prosecutors, including the district attorney, who handle cases in Bibb, Crawford and Peach counties.

When he takes office, Cooke will be the first district attorney in the circuit elected in more than a century who hasn’t previously worked as a prosecutor in the circuit.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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