Additional reporting by additional reporting by Jonathan Custodio
The Bronx District Attorney’s Office is dragging low-level prosecutors into a room with its own detective investigators and NYPD officers to interrogate them about complaints some staff have made, multiple current and former prosecutors told THE CITY.
The interviews come after a group of prosecutors inside the office threatened District Attorney Darcel Clark in an anonymous email with a walkout if she did not address their complaints about fair pay during the holidays, compensatory time off, and other labor issues.
“Line assistants stand together during these unprecedented times,” said the anonymous email, “firstname.lastname@example.org,” which was first reported by The New York Post. “Management is aware of the GREAT RESIGNATION and has failed to act, failed to protect Line assistants mental health, happiness, and financial status.”
In response to the walkout threat, Clark sent two staff-wide missives. The first pointed to her efforts at supporting staff. The second warned dissenters that their plans might break a New York law that bars public sector workers from striking.
The interviews involving law enforcement officers suggest a further escalation on Clark’s part, said one former Bronx prosecutor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“In an organization that is hemorrhaging employees due to poor management decisions, this seems to be the poorest one yet,” said the former Bronx prosecutor. “Imagine if you were brought into a room with a group of men with guns [at] your job because somebody you didn’t know sent a pissed off letter that’s affected nothing. Is it worth losing all the ADAs who are going to start looking for new jobs, just to find the source?”
Last November, Gothamist reported that as of that month, the Bronx DA’s office, which had the lowest average base pay for assistant district attorneys in the five boroughs, had lost 88 attorneys, up from 58 who left their positions in 2020 and 62 in 2019.
“This is like Trump levels of demanding sycophantic loyalty,” another former Bronx prosecutor told THE CITY. “A leader just goes, ‘Guys I feel your pain. I’m doing everything I can to make things better.’”
Order in the Courthouse
In an email, Bronx DA spokesperson Patrice O’Shaughnessy said that the dissident employees’ proposed work stoppage would violate the Taylor Law, the statute that prohibits public sector strikes, and “adversely impact the Bronx community we serve.”
As a result, O’Shaughnessy continued: “[The] Office is conducting an internal inquiry to determine whether the anonymous threat to ‘walk out’ involved any employees, who serve at will. Employees who are in violation of the Taylor Law may be subject to employee disciplinary action. While we disagree with the description and characterization of the process, the Office will continue to perform its due diligence.”
More than an hour before providing that comment, O’Shaughnessy blasted out an email to all staff reminding employees: “Staff should not respond to media inquiries, per BXDA Office policy,” according to correspondence reviewed by THE CITY.
The saga points to longstanding problems Clark has had in retaining staff.
Last June, Theresa Gottlieb, chief of The Bronx DA’s trial division, replied all to an email, which prosecutors across the office could see, begging higher-ups for more line prosecutors and supervisors in its trial bureaus, as Gothamist previously reported.
“Hi Sherry, How do you get to [sic] added to the list of bureaus that needs [sic] help since we are down 42 ADA’s and 9 supervisors,” Gottlieb wrote to Sherry Cohen, the agency’s recruitment coordinator. “I would like to add TB 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 & 70 to the list. Thank you.”
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