Jim True joins city attorney’s office | AspenTimes.com

Jim True joins city attorney’s office

ASPEN ” Jim True was named Aspen’s new assistant city attorney on Tuesday.

True, who has served as special counsel to the city for the past nine months, replaces David Hoeffer. The former assistant city attorney, who is battling cancer, is on disability leave.

It wasn’t until the past few months that True started logging a significant amount of hours in City Hall while City Attorney John Worcester recovered from an illness that kept him out of the office nearly full time.

Worcester’s absence put True in the middle of a number of significant issues, including the sexual harassment investigation into former Aspen Police Chief Loren Ryerson, who resigned this month.

True also has been advising the City Council on legal issues regarding the redevelopment of the Cooper Street Pier bar and a controversial historic preservation ordinance, which has been debated for nearly five months.

He became acquainted with City Hall controversy in May when the residency of City Council candidate Toni Kronberg was questioned. True headed that investigation, and turned the case over to the district attorney’s office, which is still investigating the matter.

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“The months John was gone, I put a lot of hours into the position,” True said, adding he will make less by the hour going full time than what he was billing City Hall as special counsel.

True will make $102,000 a year as assistant city attorney. As a private lawyer, True was billing City Hall $150 an hour.

“It’s cheaper to put him on the payroll,” Worcester joked, adding True is a tremendous asset to the city attorney’s office.

A former two-term Pitkin County commissioner, True is no stranger to public service. And in the past year, True has been attempting to get back in the public realm by running against Rachel Richards for county commissioner in the November 2006 election. He also has applied to be a judge in the county, as well as the 9th Judicial District.

But this latest position was not a career move True sought ” Worcester approached him a couple of weeks ago.

“John was lobbying for it, and I’m flattered,” True said. “I enjoy working with him.”

The feeling is mutual, said Worcester, who has recently returned to work and is recovering from meningitis and encephalitis.

“My illness brought to light how vulnerable this office is,” Worcester said, adding he works about six hours a day and is slowly regaining his strength.

“I don’t have the stamina that I used to have,” Worcester said.

At the end of August, Worcester came down with a 102-degree fever. He went to Aspen Valley Hospital and was then flown to a hospital in Denver, where he remained for five and a half weeks. At first, doctors couldn’t diagnose Worcester, who has had more than 100 tests, some of which are still at the Center for Disease Control awaiting results.

“I slept for five and a half weeks,” Worcester said. “For two weeks, people were wearing space suits around me.”

True has been in Aspen, working mainly in private practice, since 1979.

“I gave it a great deal of thought, and, although I have enjoyed private practice for the past 28 years, there are some aspects of the city work I really enjoy,” he said. “I enjoy the people, and it just seemed like the right thing to do.”

The new job is just part of new beginnings for the 54 year old. In October, True married Vicki Seyffert.

True’s official start date will be Monday, Dec. 3. While he is working full time for the city, True will continue to work on the ongoing cases for his clients, but he won’t accept any new ones.

True’s private practice ran the gamut of law services, from personal injury to real estate to divorce and litigation. True said he had a client who sued City Hall 20 years ago for personal injury. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court when it was finally settled.

True has an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from Georgia Tech. True received his law degree from the University of South Carolina.

“The city is extremely lucky to have Jim join its staff on a full-time basis,” Worcester said. “Jim already has a wonderful working knowledge of how the city works, and we’re pleased to have him on board in a more formal capacity.”

Carolyn Sackariason’s e-mail address is csack@aspentimes.com.