The Norman Transcript

Local news

January 15, 2010

OIDS reduces workforce

For eight Oklahoma Indigent Defense System employees in Norman, Friday will be their last day at the office.

OIDS Executive Director Joe Robertson said due to a $1.8 million funding shortfall, seven support staff members and one attorney were cut from the agency. The eight employees were informed of the layoffs two weeks ago.

"Our problem is, compared to other agencies, we really don't have any other funding source besides the state legislature," he said.

The OIDS board's regular meeting is scheduled Friday. A discussion about the recent layoffs is listed as an agenda item.

This is the second time this week that a state agency in Norman has announced staff cuts.

Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services reported Tuesday that the organization would layoff dozens of workers.

Trish Frazier, spokesperson for the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, said Thursday that she was not aware of any additional state agencies in the Norman area that planned to lay off workers in the immediate future.

"The recession has finally hit Oklahoma," Robertson said.

He said the reduction in workforce leaves the agency with about 50 employees in Norman.

"We're a constitutional function of government," Robertson said. "State and federal government requires that indigent defendants be furnished the effective assistance of counsel at the government's expense."

And OIDS has to keep attorneys in the courtroom representing indigent criminal defendants, he said.

Several agencies run by the state government have other funding sources. However, that's not the case for OIDS.

"We don't have any other funding," Robertson said.

Staff reduction is not the only problem facing OIDS. Robertson said the agency also has to find another home.

"We just got notice that we're being evicted," he said.

OIDS is housed on the same campus as Griffin Memorial Hospital. Robertson said the organization leases its building from the Department of Mental Health.

"We don't have any place to move and don't have the money to move," he said.

He said OIDS has five months to relocate. Robertson is confident the state legislature will help in some way to fund moving.

"They are always good to work with us," Robertson said.

Meghan McCormick 366-3539 mmccormick@normantranscript.com

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