Twelve employees have been let go by new Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles, who issued a statement saying the firings "reflect a cultural shift in prosecution" in his office.
Voyles said he is committed to changing a deep-rooted culture in the Florence office that resulted in the release of violent offenders.
The firings took place New Year's Eve.
Richard Platt served as Pinal County chief deputy prosecutor under Voyles' predecessor, Jim Walsh. He resigned shortly after Voyles took office, he said, because he believed Voyles was likely to bring in his own management personnel.
"I can understand that when a new person comes in, they want to bring in their own management personnel, that's understandable," said Platt. "But a number of the employees were non-management personnel. I was shocked."
Platt said at least 10 of the workers were attorneys and several of them were experienced capital murder prosecutors.
He called the firings a setback for the office.
Platt said he first heard of the firings on Monday. "I received a phone call about 4 p.m. Monday afternoon that a list had come over from the Pinal County Human Resources department allegedly going to terminate 12 people," he said.
Despite being aware there might be management changes, the firings still caught Platt off guard. He said Voyles informed the office there would be no changes for six months.
"To do it on the last day of December, without any prior notice, is a pretty lousy thing to do, in my opinion."
Voyles did not respond to interview requests. A receptionist in his office said there will be a press conference "sometime in the near future," but wouldn not give specifics about where or when.