Anybody but Truden or Caloia for district attorney
August 10, 2005
I’d almost rather go get a root canal than write this column, but what needs to be said, needs to be said. The details of the situation are painful, messy, silly and somewhat tedious, but the point is this: Yes, Colleen Truden should be recalled as district attorney, and no way – NO WAY – should Sherry Caloia be elected as her successor (Caloia hasn’t announced a run for district attorney, but is running the recall campaign). I’ll try to make it as succinct as possible.For months after the election of Colleen Truden to the office of district attorney, the newspapers have been featuring a nonstop accounting of her misdeeds in the office. The bottom line is that she seems to be the wrong person for the job. In a nutshell, she is either personally so abrasive to her staff, or her chief assistant is so difficult to work under that there has been a massive defection from the prosecutor ranks. This massive turnover has created a free-for-all amongst defense attorneys who have challenged the district attorney’s office to take their cases to trial, knowing full well that they couldn’t, resulting in the dismissal of felony cases. Mrs. Truden has, according to former staffers, accepted resignations from dissatisfied staffers with a two-week notice, then had investigators escort prosecutors out of the office the same day notice was given. Case after felony case has been discharged without justice being served.But let’s look at who’s organizing the recall against Truden. Sherry Caloia, a Glenwood Springs attorney, has been Truden’s most vocal critic, organizing a massive recall effort and hinting that she might like the job. One of Caloia’s most serious charges against Truden has been fiscal mismanagement, alleging that Truden has misspent her budget.I’ve been watching Sherry Caloia at work for the past 16 months as the attorney representing the town of Marble, the little burg where I live. As you may recall, the former owner of the Yule Marble Quarry had a plan to quarry two replacement stones for the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. One stone was to replace the cracked block currently in place, and the other was to grace a $5 million interpretive center to be built in Marble.Certain residents of the town and outlying areas went ballistic about the idea, charging that it would bring more tourists to the town. “Well, yes,” was the reply. “That’s the idea.” Certain residents were for it, others were against it.So at the next Town Council meeting, Hal Sidelinger, chairman of the Millsite Park committee and a Town Council member, was scheduled to give his report about the committee’s plans for the Millsite Park, as it was noted on the agenda for the council meeting. Instead it turned into an up-or-down referendum on whether or not to have the Tomb of the Unknowns memorial located there. Many detractors were present at the meeting, and somehow the supporters didn’t know about the vote about to be taken. The project was voted down.Reaction was swift and immediate. At the next Town Council meeting, I stood up and warned the council that although they considered their action legal, others would not, and they should rescind their decision, notice it properly, and vote on it again.They refused, and sure enough, a lawsuit was promptly filed. Now, more than a year later, the case is making its way through the appeals court, and the town obligated itself for almost 50 percent of its annual budget to pay – you guessed it! – Sherry Caloia’s legal fees! Had a benefactor not stepped forth with a check for an undisclosed amount – I believe it was in the neighborhood of $20,000 – the town’s next step was insolvency and going bankrupt. Now here’s the kicker – early on in the whole process, the backers of the TOU project pulled the idea from consideration, and the whole lawsuit and settlement process revolved around one, and only one, point – the Town Council admitting it had done wrong by not properly noticing the action it took on its agenda. Sherry Caloia and the Marble Town Council have steadfastly refused to do so, instead preferring to clog up the courts and spend tens of thousands of dollars to prove a moot point.If she wants to talk about fiscal responsibility, then let’s talk about her tactic of guiding the town of Marble onto the brink of bankruptcy in order to pay her legal bills.Then there’s the issue of approachability and compromise. Though it’s never pleasant to be in litigation, any lawyer will tell you that it’s bad policy to completely alienate the other side.I was personally shocked at her conduct in the meetings I attended. There were many opportunities for compromise that she and the Town Council rejected, and her demeanor was strangely bitter and hostile at the meetings I attended.She seemed to take personal affront that the lawsuit had even been filed, and my perception was that her attitude toward those citizens that didn’t agree with the Town Council’s position was hostile and derogatory. At one point, she spoke in a derogatory fashion in reference to the plaintiffs’ attorney, which I thought was extremely unprofessional.Should Sherry Caloia declare her candidacy, I certainly don’t want her for my next district attorney – a woman who is, in my opinion, vengeful, bitter, caustic, and who exercises poor judgment and atrocious fiscal responsibility.Sherry Caloia may be right – Colleen Truden is a lousy district attorney – but I’m not so sure that Sherry Caloia would be any better.Gary Hubbell and his wife, Doris, own OutWest Guides, LLC, in Marble, Colo., where they outfit summer horseback rides and autumn elk and deer hunts. Gary is a freelance writer and photographer and a native of Carbondale.