Commissioners join recall effort
August 31, 2005
Among those trying to recall District Attorney Colleen Truden, add a couple of names: Pitkin County Commissioners Mick Ireland and Michael Owsley.They were part of a small group of recall proponents who met Wednesday evening at the Woody Creek Store to plot strategy on how to get thousands of more names on petitions before Sept. 16.Sitting around an old wooden table, Owsley, Ireland, recall organizer Sherry Caloia and six others discussed the pros and cons of locations where petitioners can go and other details of the campaign.Even though he and Ireland are supporting the effort to oust Truden, Owsley said the atmosphere wouldn’t be awkward the next time Truden meets with the commissioners.”I signed the petition. If she reads every signature, it’s going to be awkward 8,000 times for her,” he said.
Ireland, who won two recall campaigns against him as a commissioner, said having adversaries is part of political life. Truden will be treated fairly by county officials, he said.”I supported Lawson [Wills] in the primary and she knew that, and I was the one who advocated that she be paid fairly, and that happened,” Ireland said. “But I also have a public obligation to protect the integrity of the process to make sure people are honest with the county commissioners. Yeah, there’s a conflict there, but win or lose, she’ll be treated fairly.”Ireland also cited the fact that he is an attorney, which comes with obligations “to police your profession. We have disciplinary channels and a binding code of ethics with consequences,” he said. “One of my obligations … is to protect the profession from people being dishonest. I think it’s very corrosive for the public to feel that the DA is not being straight with them. To this date, she has not reconciled her statements to the board of county commissioners with her conduct. And that needs to happen, one way or another.”He was referring to Truden’s statements to the Pitkin County commissioners on April 26. At that meeting, she said that not a single deputy district attorney or administrative staffer was escorted out before his or her scheduled last day. Multiple former employees of the 9th Judicial District have said Truden’s statements to local leaders were not truthful.The recall was also sparked by the fact that she hired and paid her husband $6,000 for six weeks of computer work; allegations that she has mismanaged her budget; and the belief that cases are not being prosecuted. Truden has refuted the last charge, contending that her caseload and conviction rates are higher than her predecessor’s.
At Wednesday night’s meeting, the group talked about petitioning at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival, which begins today. Caloia said petitioners can be at the Brush Creek parking lot but are not allowed on the festival grounds.Meanwhile, at the Aspen Community Picnic on Wednesday, Tricia McKenzie wandered through the crowd at Paepcke Park with large recall signs on her front and back.”We need more bodies and more volunteers. It’s a slow-go,” she said.Before the picnic began, McKenzie had been standing on a Main Street corner near the park. She said she was getting about 10 names an hour – “we’re not talking droves.”Her involvement began about a week ago, McKenzie said.
“I was like everybody else: I thought this was a no-brainer, that this was a done deal,” she said of the recall effort. “When I learned that they were actually falling short of what they needed and there weren’t people circulating the petition at this end of the valley, I went, ‘Wait a minute, I know how to do this.'”Her interest stems, she said, from what lawyers and law enforcement officials have told her about Truden.Back in Woody Creek, Ed Colby, a former Aspen Times columnist, asked whether a petition would still be accepted if the space on the form for “state” wasn’t filled out. Caloia said that didn’t matter, “just the city is needed.”Ireland told the group he would have extra petitions and information packets at his house to disseminate when needed.”We can do it,” Sunny Redmond said of getting the names of 5,455 registered voters by the deadline. “We just have to make ourselves available to the people who want to sign.”Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org