Warren Montgomery didn’t start his tenure as 22nd Judicial District Attorney by purging his predecessor’s staff, but there have been a fair number of changes since Walter Reed left office, including some that Montgomery describes as being at the “top of the food chain.”
In all, six lawyers and eight investigators have left since Montgomery was sworn in January. He has hired nine attorneys and eight investigators, two of them part-time. Another investigator, Mike Swords, died in February.
Most recently, Ronnie Gracianette, who had been chief of trials, was reassigned to serve as an assistant district attorney in Washington Parish, a much lower-profile position than he held under Reed.
Montgomery, in confirming the change, said that the office structure is still evolving, and it’s not yet been determined who will assume Gracianette’s previous duties.
Montgomery earlier reassigned Joey Oubre, an assistant district attorney, from Judge Peter Garcia’s division to that of Judge August Hand. That decision followed a policy Montgomery implemented to forbid assistant district attorneys from accepting curatorships from judges in whose courtrooms they work as prosecutors. Oubre had received a large number of curatorships from Garcia.
Reed, who decided not to run for a sixth term amid a federal grand jury probe, posted a message on his Facebook page to the candidates who were seeking to replace him shortly after qualifying. He said he would not participate in the race and had asked his staff not to do so. His one request, he said, “is that you not dismantle probably the best prosecutors office in the state,” followed by a claim that the office should finish the year with well over 100 jury trials.
That goal wasn’t met, for the first time in years.
Montgomery said in a recent speech that rumors had circulated that he planned en masse firings of staffers who had not supported him. Those rumors were untrue, he said.
But the office has seen departures, and Montgomery told the group that making the right changes as the top of an organization “can have a tremendous impact.”
The six attorneys who have left since he took over include: Houston “Hammy” Gascon, who had been Reed’s first assistant, and assistant district attorneys Michael Montalbano, Patrick McMath, Jack Hoffstadt, Leigh Ann Wall and Donald Kearns.
Kearns’ sole duty for the DA’s was to represent Slidell Memorial Hospital, but the hospital board passed a resolution absolving the DA of that responsibility.
The ranks of investigators have seen even more change. Those who have left include Bart Pepperman, Louis Dabdoub, Mark Bamford, Sam Gebbia, Edsel Jones, Brent Jones, Steve Borderlon and Delaunda Dykes. Another investigator, Michael Swords, died in February.
Some of the investigators had other responsibilities; Pepperman, for example, was director of the diversion program and Gebbia was supervisor of the worthless checks department. Both Jones were classified as investigators but may have had other duties, spokeswoman Lisa Frazier Page said.
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