Hearing on DPS layoffs, demotions under way

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PHOENIX -- A hearing is under way today to look at layoffs and demotions at the Department of Public Safety.

At issue is the process by which two employees were laid off and 12 more were demoted.

The Law Enforcement Merit System Council (LEMSC), which is made up of three members appointed by the governor to six-year terms, is questioning DPS administrators about the layoffs and demotions.

While a total of 16 people were laid off effective July 10, only two of them have asked the LEMSC to review the procedures.

"The council's charge is to determine whether or not the agency has followed the rules," explained Cmdr. Ivan Wooten, the LEMSC business manager. "The council sets the rules for reduction in force. If the director or the department does a reduction in force, then the employees who are affected have the right to ask the council to review whether or not the director followed the rules. That's what they're doing today."

In the past three years, DPS has managed to cut more than $29 million from its budget without laying off employees. The layoffs and demotions in question reportedly stemmed from the need to cut an additional $4 million for this fiscal year.

Wooten said today's hearing is the third meeting regarding reductions in force.