SACRAMENTO — Assembly Speaker Doris Allen on Friday fired 10 Republican staffers loyal to GOP Assembly Leader Jim Brulte, saying they were unable to adapt to "the new program."
Allen, attempting to consolidate her position, sacked the staffers after a weeklong review of the Republican Caucus' 91 employees. She sent letters shortly before 3 p.m. Friday, telling the employees to turn in their keys by the end of the day. They were directed to leave their files intact, and they were given a month's severance pay.
Brulte's chief of staff, Bishop Bastien, was among those fired, as was Brulte's press secretary. In all, at least five staffers hired by Brulte but paid by the caucus were sacked. Brulte could not be reached for comment.
"I kind of wear it as a badge of honor," said Kim Walsh, Brulte's spokeswoman, who was among those fired. Walsh's husband is Gov. Pete Wilson's presidential campaign spokesman, Sean Walsh.
Allen and her spokesmen refused to comment. But Thursday, Allen said she intended to fire 10 employees loyal to Brulte, explaining: "They don't adapt well to the new program."
The Republican Caucus staff is responsible for drafting and analyzing legislation, coming up with policy and helping GOP lawmakers get reelected.
The firings also struck at Garden Grove Republican Assemblyman Curt Pringle, who is among Allen's harshest critics and Brulte's staunchest supporters. Allen sacked Shawn Kent, who mainly worked for Pringle and whose job it was to draft GOP-sponsored measures aimed at limiting welfare and taxes.
"She's clearly trying to lash out at parts of the caucus that have been effective. She is trying to neuter the caucus," said Kent.
The firings are sure to further inflame Assembly Republicans who are enraged that Allen won the speakership two weeks ago with the votes of 39 Democrats and no Republicans other than herself. In the days since her election, she has withstood increasingly vicious attacks and is facing a recall effort in her Cypress-based district.
Assemblyman Steve Baldwin (R-El Cajon) charged that Allen fired "some of the brightest Republican operatives," adding: "To lose those guys is a major blow to the Republican machine."
"Doris is taking an ax and chopping at the Republican staffers," said Assemblyman Jim Battin (R-Palm Desert), noting that Republican Allen has not fired Democratic Caucus employees. "It's profound that no Democratic staffers have been fired."
Traditionally, however, Democratic lawmakers control their own caucus staff.
The new Speaker also dumped Assemblyman Bruce Thompson (R-Fallbrook) as caucus chairman, whose duties include overseeing the Republican staffers. Last week, Allen had asked Thompson to help review all 91 employees. After the review, Thompson said he concluded that at most five staffers might lose their jobs, but that he did not recommend that anyone be fired.
"We were trying to keep them from being fired," Thompson said. "Most of those people could have been reassigned to another job."
Thompson said he spoke to Allen on Friday and "she asked me for my allegiance." When he told her that he remains loyal to Brulte, she replaced him as caucus chairman.
"I don't know what she's doing," Thompson said. "Things are in an uproar."
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Orange County Lincoln Club pledges $50,000 toward ousting Allen. B5