DA Beeson’s office seeing turnover | AspenTimes.com

DA Beeson’s office seeing turnover

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Katie Hays specializes in family law at the Silverman Law Offices in Glenwood Springs. Hays says she has cases scheduled into next spring. (Kelley Cox Post Independent)

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Eight attorneys are no longer with the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office since Martin Beeson was elected to take over in January 2006.

Three of them left under “less than optimal” circumstances, according to Beeson.

“I don’t think that that’s cause for concern,” he said. “The public can make whatever interpretations they want to make. That’s their right to do, but I see no comparison between the eight attorneys that have left in almost two years here and the reasons therefore, and the seven attorneys that resigned in protest in about a seven-month period with my immediate predecessor.”

The seven attorneys he mentioned resigned after criticism of former District Attorney Colleen Truden, who voters decided to recall by a four to one margin in December 2005.

Four of seven attorneys reached for this article and who left from Beeson’s office said they left for financial or personal reasons.

“Of the eight that have left, none of them ever expressed to me any dissatisfaction with the philosophies of the office, the operations of the office,” he said.

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Some had praise for their former boss.

“I think Martin Beeson is a wonderful DA, and I think the 9th Judicial District is lucky to have him,” said Russ Wasley.

Kip O’Conner said, “I really enjoyed working with Martin and Jeff (Cheney), but unfortunately it was a situation of economics.”

“I left under good circumstances and the reason for leaving had nothing to do with Martin or his office,” Scott Turner added.

But former deputy DA Dawn O’Neil was terminated or asked to resign on Oct. 12. Former Garfield County Deputy Brandon Pariscoff said he turned her in for smoking marijuana. He was fired on Oct. 30 after they determined he was being dishonest when they investigated a conduct-unbecoming complaint O’Neil lodged against him. Beeson wouldn’t confirm or deny the stories about the marijuana allegations.

Pamela Mucklow filed a lawsuit recently claiming unidentified colleagues told Beeson false information that caused an atmosphere of distrust toward her and forced her to resign. She previously opted not to comment on the lawsuit.

Beeson said, “In my view, her lawsuit has absolutely no merit, and what she’s alleged in terms of somebody influencing me not to trust her is false. I judged her strictly on her job performance.”

Another deputy DA was given the option to resign after “job performance issues,” Beeson said. The person declined to comment.

The DA’s office starts deputy district attorneys in county court at a $51,000 a year salary. Beeson has lobbied county commissioners to get raises for his staff.

Every employer in the area faces the challenge of retaining good employees in a place where it’s expensive to live, and turnover is obviously unavoidable. But some defense attorneys raised concerns about what they said was the unusually high turnover and thought significantly more pay would have to be offered to solve the problem. They described an office with a core of talented, good deputy district attorneys but the problem of having a constant “musical chairs” situation with the young and inexperienced deputies who start in county court.

The 9th Judicial District includes Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties.

Ted Hess, a Glenwood Springs attorney, said he thought the caseload is “made a lot worse by the fact that you have this ‘musical chairs’ with the county court DAs.”

“I’m a little surprised to see another round of turnovers,” said Glenwood Springs attorney Walter Brown. “And I’m beginning to wonder what is going on over there.”

Tom Silverman, an attorney, said the amount of turnover did seem unusually high.

Beeson praised the district’s county commissioners for the raises for his staff, but said future increases will probably be necessary to combat the effect of higher salaries and lower cost of living elsewhere.

“I’m not going to say it’s normal. I’m not going to say it’s abnormal,” he said. “This is a government job, and this is a high-cost-of-living area.”