Recall right in Truden case
August 16, 2005
“Paranoia, the destroyer,” sang The Kinks, and it seems like they could have been singing about Colleen Truden.While it may seem odd to refer to a legendary rock band in the same sentence as a district attorney, nothing about Truden’s tenure has been normal.As the news coverage of Truden’s missteps intensified beginning in April, her reaction was curious. At first she simply cut off all contact with the media, failing to return phone calls and ordering subordinates not to talk to the press.As the outcry grew over five (now six) deputy district attorneys leaving the office – within months of her taking over – she eventually, some might say reluctantly, began talking to reporters. She told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent in April that “it was time to set the record straight.”Unfortunately for residents in the three-county district Truden represents, there are a number of items on the record that have yet to be straightened out. They include: Paying her husband $1,000 a week for six weeks and then telling county commissioners in her district that he did not work for the office. It didn’t help that Fred Truden also said he did “absolutely nothing” for her office. It soon came to light that he had been paid to work on the office’s computer system. In fact, he was being paid for doing “nothing” at the same time another computer company was also being paid $6,500 by the district attorney for similar work. Telling commissioners from two counties that “not one” of the deputies who resigned was escorted out of the office ahead of the last day of their notice. Gail Nichols, a former federal prosecutor and one of the valley’s most respected criminal attorneys, was in fact escorted off the job weeks before her official last day. Spending two-thirds of her annual budget in five months on a new computer system and an office remodeling. “Figures like this scare me,” said Garfield County Commissioner John Martin in June.There are other reasons an estimated 3,500 people in Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties have signed recall petitions thus far, including the perception that she is not being tough on criminals, as she promised when campaigning for office last fall.But it appears the most damaging blow, and the most unlikely, has come from a former ally and a fellow Republican Tony Hershey, a former Aspen City Council member who campaigned for Truden and then joined her staff, was the first deputy to resign after being hired by her. Hershey’s letter was so damning, calling Truden and her top prosecutor “paranoid” and comparing her to a Russian empress, that it may just seal her fate.It’s clear that Truden’s problems transcend political lines. This is not about Democrats versus Republicans. Hershey and the two former deputies spearheading the recall campaign are all Republicans.It’s also clear that the effort to remove her is not “a couple of individuals,” as Truden has contended. An estimated 3,500 voters have signed the petitions so far, putting the campaign roughly 2,000 signatures away from the 5,455 needed to force a recall election.Voters should take another look at Truden and decide whether they want new management. It may be the only way The Kinks will be worked out of this situation.