Truden won’t contest petition
Saying she wants voters to decide her fate, District Attorney Colleen Truden announced Wednesday that she will not contest any of the more than 6,000 signatures gathered by recall proponents. Her decision clears the way for an election in which registered voters in the 9th Judicial District will decide whether to keep her and, if not, who they want to replace her. No district attorney in the history of Colorado has ever been recalled.Gov. Bill Owens will schedule a vote that will take place sometime between Nov. 14 and Dec. 13, according to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.Truden’s decision came as yet another accusation was leveled at her. Truden said she had solicited employees in her office for money for her recall defense fund. One employee of the judicial district complained to Garfield County Commissioner Trési Houpt, who called the requests inappropriate.Truden, 47, spoke on the steps of the Garfield County Courthouse before about two dozen reporters from all over the state. The leaders of the recall effort stood behind the press, at times shaking their heads at her statements.In what resembled a campaign speech, she blasted her opponents for spreading “lies and distortions that have no basis in fact.””They have been concocted by a few individuals who have petty personal agendas against me and the office I lead – a few individuals who have no problem wasting taxpayer money for their selfish vendettas,” she said.Truden listed several accomplishments during her tenure, including “a 57 percent increase in bringing new felony cases.”Recall candidate Martin Beeson, a former deputy district attorney under Truden, sharply criticized that figure after the press conference.”Was this district lawless in the past eight years?” he asked. “If not, has there been a 57 percent increase in the population in the last nine, 10 months that’s caused this … increase in felony filings? What has caused this? What this tells me is the crime rate has increased drastically under her watch … now is a good time to commit a crime in this district.”There has been no shortage of controversy since Truden took office in January. Seven prosecutors and several office staff have resigned, and most have had harsh words for their former boss. Former prosecutor Tony Hershey compared her to a Russian empress, while Katherine Steers lodged a formal ethics complaint with the investigative body of the Colorado Supreme Court, which oversees the state’s lawyers, after she quit. The complaint is being investigated.In her complaint, Steers said Truden and her top assistant, Vince Felletter, made prosecution decisions based on whether or not the defense attorney was friendly to the office, instead of on the merits of the case.Many former employees described their bosses as hostile and paranoid. Hershey said Felletter yelled at him for discussing a case with a defense attorney who had worked with Truden’s predecessor.Additionally, Truden has been criticized for her budget practices, paying her husband $6,000 for six weeks of computer work and allegedly lying to county commissioners about the way employees were treated. In August, Garfield County officials canceled a number of credit cards used by staff members because interdepartmental reporting requirements were apparently not followed.Wednesday she said her budget is fine and that hiring her husband for computer work actually saved taxpayers $7,000. The payments were made at the same time she was paying another computer firm for similar work.Truden and Felletter have repeatedly denied every accusation, and have pointed out felony filings and convictions are up. Yesterday, Truden stood in front of two large charts detailing the numbers of cases and convictions the office has handled. The 9th Judicial District encompasses Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties.”The real issue is are we doing the job? And the job is getting done,” Truden said. “We have a better run office … things are going very smoothly.”Regarding the most recent criticism, Houpt said the employee told her that Truden was calling office staff at home to ask them to contribute. Houpt’s husband is a partner in the law firm with recall organizer Sherry Caloia. It is distressing that Truden is using such tactics, the commissioner said.”It puts pressure on employees that is not appropriate. I think there is concern of potential retribution,” Houpt said. “It’s simply not appropriate to approach employees in that manner. I think it’s really pushing beyond a line that any elected official should go beyond.”Asked about the allegation at the press conference, Truden answered with a question.”Have I sought contributions for my campaign? Yes, I have,” she said.She was then asked whether she had specifically called her staff, and she again answered with a question.”Have I called my staff, who are citizens and have a right to contribute? Yes, I have talked to some of my staff,” she said.Asked whether she thought that might make some employees uncomfortable, she said it was an interesting question, and replied that they don’t have to contribute.Another reporter noted that Truden, a Republican, has said the recall effort is politically motivated but that some of her opponents, including Beeson and Jeff Cheney, also a former deputy district attorney under her, are Republicans, as well.”They’re disgruntled former employees who happen to be registered Republicans,” Truden said.Beeson didn’t disagree with that sentiment, contending that he has plenty of reasons to be unhappy.”Yeah, I’m disgruntled because she has wrecked this office,” he said. “Do I want her job? Absolutely. Somebody needs to get in there and clean up that office and restore integrity to that office and restore respect to an office that was once highly respected in the state.”Truden said she wasn’t surprised that recall proponents were successful in garnering 6,626 signatures of registered voters. Her opponents relied on questionable tactics to gather names, including the use of children as petition circulators, she said.Caloia refuted that, saying she did not know of any children used as petition mules, and said Truden’s comments were baseless.Truden was also asked if she would debate Caloia or another recall backer. She said she’d have to think about it.
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