DA skates through meeting with BOCC
Embattled District Attorney Colleen Truden emerged relatively unscathed from a meeting with the Garfield County Commissioners on Monday. Truden updated the commission on budget items and answered a question about employing her husband, Fred Truden.Commissioner Trési Houpt asked if Truden’s husband was on the county payroll, as has been alleged in recent newspaper stories. Truden said that when she took office in January she needed the computers serviced and was told no one in the county was available until April.”As a stopgap, Fred provided limited services to meet our immediate needs. That was it,” Truden said, adding that he was not on the county payroll but was paid and was issued a badge to get into the county courthouse after hours.The Pitkin County Commissioners questioned about her husband April 26, when she told them he was not on the payroll but was hired to provide some computer services and also did volunteer work.Commissioner John Martin said the allegations about Truden’s employment of her husband is a question of semantics.
“I think we’re dealing with split definitions. On the payroll is different from paying as a consultant,” he said.Martin declined to say more about ex-employees’ allegations that Truden had them escorted out of the office when they resigned and would not let them work out their period of notice. That period in some cases amounted to a few weeks to finish up court cases.”I won’t call anyone a liar or a cheat. Let the facts speak for themselves,” Martin said.Most of the half hour Truden was with the commissioners was devoted to discussion about her budget.Truden said when she took office in early January she found a number of unpaid bills left over from the previous administration under then-DA Mac Myers.”Sheriff’s subpoenas were not paid,” but have been taken care of, as well as payments to special prosecutors, she said. “It appears that the 2004 workman’s compensation was not paid to the tune of about $8,500,” nor were termination packages for staff who left the DA’s office.
To date, five prosecutors have resigned from the office.Truden also detailed the status of her hiring efforts. As of this week, she has hired one attorney for the Aspen office who will prosecute felony cases in district court. Another attorney for the Glenwood Springs office is expected to come on board in the next three weeks, and she is interviewing three more attorneys who she said should be in position by the end of the month. She also expressed concern that one attorney in Rio Blanco County is handling 219 felony and misdemeanor cases, compared to 293 cases in Pitkin County, and another attorney may be needed in that office.Houpt defended the commission’s lack of searching questions to Truden Monday.”Our work with Colleen is strictly budgetary. We would walk a really fine line to challenge another elected official’s personnel decisions,” she said.Garfield County pays $1.1 million to the DA’s office out of an approximately $1.6 million budget for the 9th Judicial District that covers Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties.
Martin said he intends to question Truden more closely about the issues in her office at a workshop on June 15.Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario, who was also at the commissioners’ meeting Monday, said that despite the concerns surrounding Truden’s tenure as DA, his court cases are running smoothly.”We’ve had no disruption so far, and the cases are flowing well,” he said.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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