Truden responds to allegations
District Attorney Colleen Truden came out from behind her office door this week to answer a barrage of allegations from media reports over the past week.”It was time to set the record straight. There is just so much misinformation and inaccuracies that they needed to be corrected,” Truden said.Truden sat for an exclusive one-on-one interview on Wednesday.Since she took office Jan. 11, five deputy district attorneys and a legal assistant have quit. The resignations have launched a storm of complaints about the way Truden does business.”When I won the primary everyone knew I would be in the office,” Truden said, “they knew my philosophy. Each one wanted to be on the team. I didn’t clean house like everyone said I would. … I didn’t fire anybody. They chose to leave for various reasons.”Truden said she believes the reason she was elected was to bring change to the district attorney’s office.
“If [voters] would have wanted things to stay the same in the DA’s office they would not have voted me into office. This is part of the change,” she said.This week Truden hired Andrew Heyl, who will serve as a deputy district attorney in the Aspen office and will prosecute cases in district court. She is also interviewing another attorney for the Glenwood Springs office and looking for two more.Some attorneys quoted in recent news stories have said that Truden will find it hard to hire replacements because of the resignations and what is perceived as an intolerable atmosphere in the office.”It’s not posed that big a problem,” Truden said. Attorneys have come to her looking for jobs, she said.Until the positions are filled, Assistant District Attorney Vince Felletter will cover cases in district court. Truden would not comment about allegations that Felletter harassed co-workers in 2001 when he was in the district attorney’s office in Mesa County.”I’m not going to go there,” Truden said. She added that felony cases will proceed as normal.”We have our dockets covered.”
She also pointed out that 88 percent of the cases the DA’s office prosecutes are in county court “where we’re fully staffed.”There is also a perception that Truden has too close a relationship with law enforcement, where traditionally the district attorney’s office has acted as an oversight for local police departments. Truden acknowledged that law enforcement supported her bid for the office because of frustration with her predecessor, Mac Myers. She also promised during her campaign that she would improve that relationship.”Law enforcement are our partners in prosecuting crime. We have to be able to prove cases in court, and so we work with law enforcement. … There is greater and open communication (with local police departments),” she said.Complaints about the flight of attorneys from her office, allegations about a dogmatic management style and that her lack of prosecution experience will hamper her ability to do her job effectively are coming from a relatively small group of people, Truden said. “It appears to be a small group of people who did not support me [during the campaign] and campaigned against me and don’t want me in office.” Although some turnover is to be expected in the district attorney’s office when the top job changes, Garfield County Commissioner John Martin said he’s concerned that five attorneys have left.”I always have concerns when you see good attorneys go on to greener pastures,” he said.
Truden is set to update the commissioners May 2. She also appeared before the Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday to answer questions about the turmoil in her office.Martin, a patrolman with the Glenwood Springs Police Department for many years before he was elected commissioner, said having two or three attorneys leave with a regime change is not unusual.When Myers took over from Milt Blakey eight years ago, “a few people left. It’s unusual to get more than three,” he said.Truden defeated then-Assistant District Attorney Lawson Wills in the Republican primary in August.”I’ve gotten so many calls in support,” she said, from attorneys and residents.Conflict comes with the territory.”I knew it was not going to be pleasant,” Truden said. “But people in the community asked me to step forward and asked me to make changes. It’s a thankless job, and it’s not easy. It probably takes a hardheaded person like me to take the shots.”
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