Deputy DA speaks out about resignation
Wednesday, Jeff Cheney was in his side yard wielding a weed-whacker. Dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, he hardly looked like his former suit-clad self as a deputy district attorney, which was his normal mode until two weeks ago. When he resigned from his position, Cheney said he promised himself he would keep mum to the press, but he decided to speak out, in an interview last week, and also on Wednesday. He said it was because of District Attorney Colleen Truden’s “misrepresentations” in the press and to the Pitkin and Garfield county commissioners. Those misrepresentations, he said, included everything from her husband’s employment in her office to the resignations of five out of 11 attorneys in her office.One of the positive outcomes of his and other attorney’s public statements, Cheney said, has been a cost-of-living raise for the office staff, which the county commissioners approved five months ago. Truden withheld them because she did not believe in cost-of-living raises and would base them on merit only.In a broader sense, public scrutiny of the embattled DA points to a larger issue.”The fact is, the more public attention there is on this (the better). This is an incredibly powerful position.”Although Cheney has spoken out about his dissatisfaction with the way he was let go, he is now convinced that the public needs to draw its own conclusions about how the office is operating.”Ask yourselves, ‘Does integrity and trust need to be restored to this office?’ It is truly a question only the public can answer. I can’t answer for them,” he said. Cheney believes Truden should be recalled and said there is a groundswell building toward that end.”I think there needs to be a recall. There’s a populist movement coalescing (that’s) not Democrat or Republican.”Cheney has been mentioned as a likely candidate, but has said repeatedly it is premature to declare his intentions. “If anything comes out of this, recall or not, people are paying attention. I’m fielding countless phone calls (from people) who are appalled at this compromise of public trust and want to do something about it.”At issue for Cheney was Truden’s refusal to include her experienced staff in decision-making.”People in the office have a wealth of experience. They were … doing their job out of devotion and not out of a desire to possess power and influence but devotion to doing the right thing.”Those on staff in January when Truden took office wanted “a new leader to consult with them in the decision-making process so (they) are based on accurate assessments (of cases). … The people who have been doing the job and have the experience were not consulted for anything of consequence.”Truden’s lack of experience will “derail” the office, Cheney said. “People have tried to categorize what’s happening as a normal transition, but they’re ignoring the obvious; it’s the exact opposite. The people who left are Republican and Democrat. It’s sugarcoating a very serious problem to categorize it as a normal transition.”Cheney said he’s had a number of offers of work both here and outside the valley. For the near term, he’ll go to a National Guard conference in Florida in mid-May and will also take the family to Disney World.”If there’s anything I’ve learned out of all this, it’s a shame the DA’s office is a political office. It might be a place where the best of the best rise to the top and you earn your way through the ranks.”You can’t just be a manager; you have to lead by example.”
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