UPDATE: Public Hearing set for City’s involvement in district attorney recall
THE city of Alamosa moved forward Wednesday with efforts to recall District Attorney Alonzo Payne after the city council approved on first reading a change to the city’s Fair Campaign Practices Act that would allow city officials to spend tax dollars on the recall of a non-city official.
“It’s unprecedented,” Alamosa City Manager Heather Brooks said of the request.
With nearly a packed house, the City Council moved the issue to a public hearing on March 16.
Council heard from a handful of public comments, most of which had a theme: supporting the city to take action in recalling Payne. Councilor Charlie Griego didn’t support the request. “The voter is the one who put him there and the voter should be the one to take him out,” Griego said.
Typically, the city does not get involved with recall efforts of other elected officials, but due to concerns by some people of community safety and financial concerns brought about by city staff, a recommended amendment to the city’s Fair Campaign Practices Act is now on the table. The details of the specific city ordinance can be found here in the agenda document. The photos, draft letter to the attorney general, and legal documents are found at the bottom.
Chief of Police Ken Anderson and City Manager Brooks presented the reasoning behind the request. Anderson outlined three specific cases that were assisted by federal agencies to try in federal court. The exact federal agencies were not named, but he said the crimes carried federal prison time between 15 and 30 years and the cases were pleaded out with minor sentencing.
Anderson also mentioned that narcotic operations are becoming much more dangerous and more frequent. Pictures provided to the council showed drugs, cash, and weapons which he called “cop killers.”
Brooks addressed the strong language used in the agenda item. She said that “we’re not throwing these words around, like incompetent, lightly.”
She mentioned an effort in the county to lower funding for the DA’s office, which she did not agree with. “We don’t believe reducing funding will help.” Brooks noted that less funding would be another excuse for the DA not to prosecute future cases.
“Another three years is not sustainable,” Brooks said.
City Councilor Kyle Woodward said Alamosa “is almost a scary place to raise kids” with Payne as district attorney.
Councilor Kristina Daniel said that she finds it difficult as an elected official to support the recall of another elected official, but believed “100 percent this is about an office that needs to uphold its values.”
Griego, in his objection, said that as a non-partisan group of elected officials, he felt the situation was becoming “very political.”
The public hearing is set for March 16, with the recommendation that city staff send a letter to the Colorado attorney general, and to direct staff to investigate further ethics violations of the DA’s office.
MARCH 2, 2022
City Council to address alleged DA ‘malfeasance’ at Wednesday meeting
ALAMOSA City Council will be hearing options to address alleged “malfeasance” of the 12th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in what is seemingly a move toward city involvement in a recall election aimed at District Attorney Alonzo Payne.
In an effort to permit expenditures on recall elections, during Wednesday’s City Council Meeting there will be a first reading of an amendment to an ordinance that “would allow the City to spend funds on recall efforts for non-City recall elections. The expenditures are limited to recall elections, as those present particularly dire circumstances that could justify City involvement.”
Outlined in the meeting’s agenda item are examples of city staff’s concerns. They range from unprofessionalism, alleged Victim Rights Act violations, a lack of response from the DA’s office and its lack commitment in being a community partner, police officers put at risk due to “emboldened criminals,” and what the city is calling an unprecedented use in “sweetheart plea deals” for serious crimes.
They state that they have made many attempts to meet with Payne to address the concerns, but overall the attempts have proven to be “fruitless.”
Alamosacitizen.com reached out to Payne, but hasn’t received a comment.
“Beyond the dangerous plea deals and violations of the VRA, staff has also found the office to be non-responsive to communication efforts, dismissive and combative during meetings, and lacking in timely performance of duties.”
The city outlines four specific examples of plea deals that the city says “highlight the threat to our community.”
The most serious allegation states the Alamosa Police Department conducted 40 narcotic operations over a nine-month period and not one of them went to trial. “They have all been dismissed or pled to less serious offenses with very minimal jail time.”
The others highlight plea deals that the city regards as inadequate for the crimes committed.
They also claim that 20 warrants had not been processed for weeks after the Police Department submitted them to the DA’s office.
The city makes clear that they have heard the same responses from Payne and that he fails to explain away “the actions or lack of actions of his office.”
“The District Attorney will say that his office is underfunded and the workload is hard to keep up with,” they write. “For at least the last decade, the District Attorney’s Office has been underfunded. That has been true for every District Attorney who has held the office, yet previous District Attorneys have prosecuted high level offenses and sought jail time.”
They also mention that the recent staffing change within the DA’s office also does not resolve the issues, stating “City staff in no way feels that these staff changes will address the real threat to our community, which is DA Payne.”
With this being the first reading, the city will decide whether or not to approve the new ordinance which would then go to a public hearing by March 16. With city council approval, there would also be a city investigation by staff to look further into any ethics violations by the DA’s office.
City staff have also recommended sending a letter to the Colorado Attorney General’s office advising Attorney General Phil Weiser to expand the investigation beyond the VRA complaints. The draft letter states: “We request that you extend the scope of your investigation to include incompetency, complete disregard for all victims (not just those meeting the definition of VRA), pattern of inappropriate plea deals, lack of communication with law enforcement agencies, and questionable inconsistencies of information provided during judicial proceedings.”
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