Aspen DA's Office: Running on Empty

April 21 2005, 7:08 PM

What is going on in Aspen and why is no one other than the Aspen Daily News (and 5280) reporting it? 9th Judicial District Attorney Colleen Truden is firing Aspen prosecutors faster than we can count them -- and for no discernible reason. Not only that, no replacements have been named. Will it be open season for crime up in Aspen?

Deputy District Attorney Jeff Cheney, who recently earned a Bronze Star for heroic service as an Army captain in Operation Iraqi Freedom, is the latest name to withdraw from new District Attorney Colleen Truden's administration. Gretchen Larson and Gail Nichols also recently resigned their deputy district attorney positions. "Philosophical differences" were cited in all of the departures. In each instance, the prosecutors offered to stay with the office for two weeks or more in an effort to ease its heaving workload and leave on good terms. Instead, Truden, Walters and Assistant District Attorney Vince Felletter have called them into meetings without notice and asked them to vacate the building.

It sounds like legal support personnel may follow the attorneys out the door.

Carol Koris, a legal assistant for the DA's office at the Pitkin County Courthouse, resigned Tuesday because she does not feel Truden is treating employees fairly. Even so, she offered to stay until May 6. "It's all been very unprofessional," said Koris, who has since landed a job as the office manager at the Basalt Police Department. "I would have even stayed longer because I didn't want to leave them in a bind. But (Truden) just said, 'That won't be necessary. Hand over your keys.'"

DA Truden is not commenting. She's said to be in meetings. What kind of public official refuses to explain such drastic changes in her administration? Since she took office in January,

The 9th Judicial District has lost more than 100 years of prosecution experience

Maybe Truden has a perfectly good reason. If so, she owes it to the citizens she represents in the name of "The People of the State of Colorado" to explain her actions. Especially in light of comments like these from one of the recently terminated prosecutors, Gail Nichols, whom the District named Prosecutor of the Year in 2004:

I'm very concerned. Obviously this leaves both Pitkin County and Garfield County without their requisite number of attorneys.....This doesn't make a lot of sense because she doesn't have the manpower to deal with their workload in the meantime.

Update: Another prosecutor has quit. There is talk of a recall election. And new information emerges about elected DA Colleen Truden and the only remaining felony prosecutor, Wil Felletter:

"Also plaguing the district attorney's office are concerns that Truden's husband, Frederick, is working in the office, though it is not known what, if anything, he is getting paid. He did, however, receive a $4,825 check from Truden's election committee as a purported reimbursement for campaign expenditures, according to a report filed with the state April 1." "Unease over the history and style of Felletter is also a problem: Truden's second-in-command has been accused of stalking and harassing female prosecutors at his prior post in Mesa County, according to court documents."