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Truden’s problems mounting

If a recall effort of District Attorney Colleen Truden is launched in July, it will have support from both Republicans and Democrats, Glenwood Springs attorney Sherry Caloia said Thursday.And a Pitkin County commissioner expressed dismay yesterday that Truden may have lied to the board during a meeting Tuesday. She told the four commissioners present that “not one” deputy district attorney was escorted off the premises after they resigned, despite statements to the contrary from the former employees.”I have to say, as a county commissioner, I am always gravely concerned about allegations that misrepresentations have been made to the board of county commissioners,” Commissioner Mick Ireland said. “Without judging the veracity of the statements made at this time, I am always upset that somebody would think that our board of county commissioners is a forum to manipulate facts or misrepresent reality. That’s pretty serious.”Commissioner Michael Owsley was also at that meeting.”I wouldn’t expect the DA to be lying,” he said. “If she is, I’m disappointed. But I don’t expect her to be lying. There seems to be a conflict and I’m sure it’ll be resolved. That doesn’t necessarily mean that one person is lying and the other person is telling the truth. It’s not that black and white. I’m perfectly willing to give the DA the benefit of the doubt.”Sources also said Truden recently lied to her staff, saying she was going to Denver for a conference when she actually went to California. “She lied to the people in the office [about] where she was going,” one source said. “That’s the kind of stuff that she does.”Truden has not returned messages seeking comment. Linda McCausland, chairwoman of the Pitkin County Republican Party, said the issue has been blown out of proportion.”I think the newspapers are creating hysteria,” she said. Those who resigned “all signed on to support her style or her vision, and evidently they haven’t been doing that. I think it’ll all settle down.” McCausland predicted any recall petition would be challenged.The controversy surrounding Truden, a Republican, has grown by leaps and bounds during the past several weeks. Since she took office, five deputy district attorneys and numerous legal staff have resigned across the large 9th Judicial District, which covers Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties. Additionally, it was revealed that Truden hired her husband, Fred, to work in the district’s office in Glenwood Springs. She said Tuesday that he is not on the district’s payroll but does provide “some services [in the office] and does some volunteer work.”And allegations have surfaced against Truden’s assistant district attorney, Vince Felletter, her second in command. He allegedly harassed co-workers while working in the Mesa County district attorney’s office and was questioned by investigators in a murder case in Grand Junction.All of this has led to talk of a recall. A recall proceeding would have to wait until Truden, who took office in January, has been in her job for six months.”She’s not an honest person, obviously,” the source said. “You can’t have a dishonest person as a district attorney. Plus, look at the actions she has made in pulling somebody from their chair and escorting them out. That’s just pure vindictiveness. If you have somebody that reacts [with] a flash of emotion like that, then you’ve got a real problem. She has the ability to screw up people’s lives.”Phil Palmer is a former deputy district attorney in Rio Blanco County. He quit when Truden took over and is now a deputy district attorney in La Junta, east of Pueblo.”I was comfortable in the community I was in and my wife really liked it,” Palmer said. “From that standpoint, I didn’t want to particularly move.”I guess I moved on because she didn’t want me there. My last day was her first day. She’s made her own mess, so good luck to her.”Caloia said “absolutely” people are interested in a recall. “We need 5,455 signatures in the [three-county district],” she said. “I believe they can come from any one of the three or all three [counties].”There’s a great deal of interest. This is not a Democratic Party-driven thing at all. People are talking about it and it has nothing to do with a [political] party,” she said. “Because most likely the person who would run would probably be a Republican.”It crosses party lines.”Caloia told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent this week that she will run for district attorney if Truden is recalled. Truden took office on Jan. 11 so a recall effort could begin on July 11.Although she said she would consider being a candidate, “I am so busy in my life, if someone else stepped up to the plate and I felt it was a good choice” she’d be for it, the Post Independent reported. She also mentioned that Jeff Cheney has been approached as a candidate. “I think he’s willing to consider it, and I think he’d be a good choice.”Yesterday she outlined the person she and other recall proponents are seeking to replace Truden.”We want somebody in there who has integrity, experience and some credibility with the community,” Caloia said. “I think that’s been lost.”She filed an open records request Wednesday in an attempt to find out whether Fred Truden is employed at the district attorney’s office. The Aspen Times filed two similar motions yesterday.”I called there this morning and asked when I could expect [an answer],” she said Thursday. “They didn’t know, they were going to get back to me and I haven’t heard.”Ireland said recall supporters should weigh the consequences of launching an effort to unseat Truden.”It’s a very divisive, contentious process no matter who prevails, and you have to weigh the harm you do to the community and the district before you employ a tool like that,” he said. “The recall is the ‘nuclear option.’ It’s voiding an election and expectations that people have surrounding an election. That being said, the district attorney’s office needs the public’s confidence that it is always dealing in truth because it has an awesome amount of power.”Dana Barker, chairman of the Garfield County Democratic Party, said politicos in his neck of the woods may discuss the issue at an upcoming meeting.The Democratic Party’s executive board and then a central committee in Garfield County will start discussing Truden’s issues “if enough furor comes about and it seems to [have] a rationale behind it,” Barker said.”I’ve heard a number of people comment on this in a variety of situations, Republicans, independents and Democrats. They’re surprised by the sustained news coverage that this story has involved. You’ve had front-page articles [several] days in a row. That’s very unusual for this area, and that catches people’s attention.”The fact that experienced prosecutors are leaving puts the office in a bind.”The source contacted for this story agreed that “she’s taken a huge hit in experience levels. She won’t even acknowledge that.”John Sims, the temporary chairman of the Rio Blanco County Democratic Party, said he was not familiar with the firestorm of criticism Truden has faced.”I’ll definitely look into it a little bit and do some investigating down here and see what the problem is,” he said.Mitch Bettis, publisher and editor of the Rio Blanco Herald Times, said he was aware of the controversies. He said his paper has not run any stories, but that will likely change.”We will probably pick [the stories] up just to let people know,” said Bettis, a former publisher of The Aspen Times. “Our voters need to know, from a district standpoint, what’s going on. Even though it may be quiet over here like it usually is, they need to know just to be educated.”Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com


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