DA recall price tag approaches $90,000 | AspenTimes.com

DA recall price tag approaches $90,000

Chad Abraham

The recall election of District Attorney Colleen Truden will cost the state nearly $90,000 and is forcing local officials to organize two separate elections at the same time.More than half of that cost, $48,000, will be borne in Garfield County, the most populous of the three counties in the 9th Judicial District. It will cost Pitkin County about $27,000 to administer the Dec. 13 recall election, while Rio Blanco County’s share will be around $12,000, according to figures submitted to the Colorado secretary of state’s office.The cost estimates of the election had to be submitted so the secretary of state’s office could alert the Legislature, which is appropriating extra funds for the recall vote, said Pitkin County Clerk Sylvia Davis.Running two elections simultaneously will not be easy, the three county clerks said. As results from the Nov. 1 general election are counted, officials will also be finalizing the ballot for the recall election on Dec. 13, Davis said.”There’s an overlap,” she said. “The overlap is hard when you’re working on two elections. We have one elections person, so it’s hard for us to run one election, let alone overlapping two of them.”Along with the general election, Nov. 1 is the deadline for recall candidates Chip McCrory and Martin Beeson to submit their petitions to get on the ballot. Beeson, a former deputy prosecutor under Truden, and McCrory, a defense attorney and former prosecutor, are trying to get 1,000 signatures of registered Republicans to qualify as a candidate should Truden be voted out.State law does not dictate how long the secretary of state’s office has to verify the candidates’ petitions. But the process will likely take three days, said the office’s spokeswoman, Dana Williams. Truden will have five days to protest those signatures.Only then can the ballot language be certified and the ballots handed over to the counties. If neither of the candidates makes it onto the ballot and Truden is recalled, Gov. Bill Owens would appoint a new district attorney.Saying she did not want to waste taxpayer money, Truden did not protest any of the 6,626 certified voter names on the earlier petition that triggered the recall election; 5,455 were needed to put a recall on the ballot.Different election; similar voting methodsRegistered voters living in the three counties will be able to vote using absentee mail-in ballots; polling places will also be set up Dec. 13. One difference from the general election is that early voting will not be used in the recall.Pitkin County will use the same 10 polling stations used in the general election. Garfield and Rio Blanco will combine some voting precincts and have fewer polling spots in order to cut costs, their clerks said.Voters will cast their ballots as they would in the regular election, making choices in pencil. The ballot is then sent through a scanning machine.Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.If she is recalled, Truden’s term will have lasted almost exactly a year.The district attorney took office Jan. 11. If voters boot her, Truden would officially be out of a job sometime around Jan. 6, 2006. That is likely when the secretary of state would certify the election result.What a year it’s been. Promising a tougher stance on crime, Truden has heralded a 57 percent increase in felony prosecutions. But that statistic is afloat in a sea of harsh criticism and resignations that has lasted for seven months.Seven deputy district attorneys and five administrative personnel have resigned since Truden took office. Her critics have assailed her for: allegedly mismanaging prosecutions and her budget; the honesty of her statements to county commissioners about the circumstances surrounding prosecutors’ departures; and paying her husband $6,000 for six weeks of computer work, among other charges.One prosecutor, former Aspen City Councilman Tony Hershey, compared her to a Russian empress in his resignation letter and has since sued her. Another former deputy district attorney, Katherine Steers, filed an ethics complaint with the Colorado Supreme Court. Steers’ complaint alleges that defense attorneys who are friendly with the district attorney’s office receive better plea offers than those who have spoken out against Truden or who support the recall effort.Truden has strenuously denied all of the charges and says she has a better relationship with law enforcement and has had a better-run office than her predecessors.Mildred Alsdorf, Garfield County clerk, said her office is starting to get requests for absentee ballots for the recall vote.”We’ll be getting it done, but it’s taking staff hours,” she said of the two elections.In combining voting precincts to save money in the recall vote, Carbondale will likely have one polling place, Glenwood Springs will have one or two sites, and polls will also be in New Castle and Silt, Alsdorf said. She said she is currently pinning down the exact locations.But she is also telling citizens that they may want to employ absentee ballots.”If they vote absentee, they won’t have to get out if it’s stormy and everything,” she said.In Rio Blanco County, polling places will be set up in Meeker and Rangely, said Clerk Nancy Amick.The recall election is nearly unprecedented in Colorado; voters have never removed a district attorney. Joe Losavio of Pueblo survived the state’s only other recall vote in 1978.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com

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