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More than a dozen laid off at EBR Clerk of Court

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BATON ROUGE - More than a dozen employees at the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court's Office received pink slips over the past week. It's part of a measure to get the budget back in line and plug a $1.3 million hole.

Joyce Swearingen's new year isn't off to a good start. She's spent the past 31 years of her life working for the EBR Clerk of Court's Office and worked as a supervisor for the past 20 years.

"I was actually called the icon of the office at supervisors meetings for many years because my department and employees never had a problem," Swearingen said.

Last week, she flew out of town for her mother's funeral. When she returned home and was still grieving, she got more sobering news. She no longer would hold the position of supervisor in a job she loved so much. She's one of 12 full-time workers who were let go. Another part-time employee was also fired.

"I'm not just speaking for myself. There are other dedicated employees laid off as well with great records," Swearingen said. "There was no reason for them to go. It could have been last hires going."

The budget woes were first discovered in an annual audit. That's when finances began getting scrutinized. After Clerk of Court Doug Welborn was reelected, questions surfaced over spending. We've learned today the Inspector General is aware of those spending issues but declined to confirm or deny if their office was investigating.

"There is a budget issue because of their mismanagement of money," Swearingen said. "I do believe that. But I think they caused it and the employees shouldn't have to pay for it."

Fred Sliman is the spokesman for the EBR Clerk of Court.

"Court costs have been down," Sliman said. "Also land, filing on that side are both down. It's just been constantly down."

Sliman says approximately 150 people work for them and believes the 13 layoffs will help get the budget back in order. But he didn't have details if other measures were also being explored to make up for the $1.3 million hole they have to fill. As for Swearingen, she believes her termination is part of a deeper vendetta against her and her team. Her son-in-law was also a long time employee in a different deparment and was among the 13 employees who were fired.

"It's very personal," Swearingen said. "It's my son in law and two of my employees that worked for me for years, one was a 17 year employee and a seven or eight year employee."

The Clerk's Office said the layoffs were not easy and were carefully decided based off of the advice from auditors and accountants. 

The Clerk's Office said in addition to the 13 employees who were laid off, positions were also eliminated through attrition. Sliman said positions were also able to be consolidated with ongoing advancements in technology.

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