DA recall poses transition issues
If voters recall District Attorney Colleen Truden on Tuesday, they can expect a rushed transition since there would be little time before her successor would take over.”That’s what they’ll end up with if that’s what they want to happen,” Truden said.The election would not become official and Truden’s successor could not be sworn in until Jan. 6 at the earliest. Truden would be entitled to remain in office until then.While that may be too long for some of Truden’s critics, it still wouldn’t be much time to hand off duties to the next district attorney. In the event of a recall, Truden and her successor could need all that time to effect a smooth transition – assuming both parties are willing to cooperate.Martin Beeson, the only challenger to Truden whose name will appear on the recall ballot, said he’s not concerned about the short time. However, it has put him in an awkward position, he said. Beeson said he feels obligated to start formulating transition plans before he even knows if he will be elected.”I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I also don’t want to be negligent,” he said.He said there’s a lot of work to be done during a transition, such as assigning cases to deputy district attorneys, and instituting policies and procedures.”I think I would be remiss if I did not start thinking about my administration and what I’m going to do and the personnel and policies and procedures and those sorts of things, just to be able to hit the ground running after I take office,” he said.Chip McCrory, the write-in candidate, said one particular challenge would be that counties are now finalizing Truden’s budget, which a new district attorney would have to live with for the next year.”Whoever comes in is going to be hitting the ground … fast and without a complete idea of what’s going on,” he said.Smooth transition?Another question is how well an incoming district attorney and Truden would work together on a transition. Beeson, a former prosecutor in Truden’s office, said he chooses to be optimistic that Truden would put hard feelings aside for the sake of a smooth transfer of the office if voters decide to recall her.”I’m going to assume and presume that the transition would be effectuated in a professional manner,” he said.Truden said she worries about how a new regime would behave during a transition. She expects she would continue to be accused of lying just as she has been during the recall campaign.”They’re not going to change their stripes,” she said.Still, she said she would do what she could to ease the transition if she’s recalled.One factor in a transition would be how many deputy district attorneys the new officeholder would keep on. Beeson called that “a really sensitive area” that he preferred not to speak about now. If he’s elected, he said, he would need to meet with each deputy “and come to a decision on each of them on an individual basis.”McCrory also said it’s premature to talk about possible staff changes. But he said he doubts he or Beeson would make drastic changes in the staff. A rapid turnover in Truden’s deputy ranks “without any waiting in the wings” caused a staffing problem for her last spring, he said.McCrory said he wouldn’t be worried about cases being transitioned smoothly from one district attorney to the next but trials could be a complication. He said he thinks judges would be forgiving on a lot of matters until a new district attorney got settled into the job.Truden said the public should expect a new district attorney to face transition difficulties if she is recalled, and she noted how she heard from her critics on the issue after she took office.”They didn’t really let me get started in a transition before they started attacking me,” she said. Now, she said, “I think the citizens have seen what’s going on and don’t want to go through a transition that is completely and totally unnecessary and baseless and unwarranted.”
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