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State drug enforcement agents sued Gov. Jerry Brown and his finance director, Ana Matosantos, on Wednesday over 206 layoffs they consider "obvious political retaliation" for endorsing Brown's Republican opponent in 2010.

As part of the June budget, the California Department of Justice lost $35 million for its Division of Law Enforcement. The cut will wipe out the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, which coordinates with local and federal law enforcement on drug and gang cases.

A similar $36 million cut is expected for the next fiscal year as California faces an estimated $12.8 billion deficit.

The Association of Special Agents filed suit Wednesday in Sacramento Superior Court, alleging that the governor "proposed and supported legislation to eliminate general fund support for special agents because of petitioner's political endorsement of Meg Whitman." The union also said Brown "infringed on the state attorney general's constitutional authority to investigate and prosecute crimes."

The agents' union is a subset of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association, which backed Whitman in the 2010 gubernatorial race. CSLEA was at the center of a campaign gaffe that year when an unidentified Brown aide was caught on voice mail calling Whitman a "whore" for allegedly protecting public safety pensions in exchange for endorsements, referring to CSLEA.

Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer called the allegation of political payback "baseless and without merit." Palmer said the state had little choice but to cut Department of Justice funding because lawmakers rejected additional taxes to balance the budget.

"This was a cut that was entirely avoidable," Palmer said. "It is not a reduction the governor proposed in his budget in January, and it is not a cut the governor proposed when he revised his budget in May."

Click here to read the agents' association lawsuit.


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