Payne resigns; State AG Office will step in until Polis makes appointment
DISTRICT Attorney Alonzo Payne, under fire for his management of the office, has submitted his resignation to Gov. Jared Polis, effective at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. Polis has asked Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and his office to “fulfill the responsibilities of the 12th Judicial District Attorney’s Office until he appoints a new DA.”
Weiser on Tuesday issued his findings from an investigation into violations to the state Victim Rights Act by Payne and the DA’s office. Weiser was prepared to appoint an outside independent monitor as a result of the investigation.
With Payne’s resignation, Weiser and his office will now step into an interim role in handling the cases from the 12th Judicial District. Polis will name a replacement, who then will serve the remainder of Payne’s term through 2024.
“The people of the San Luis Valley deserve a fresh start with a new district attorney,” Weiser said in a statement sent to Alamosa Citizen. “Our investigation into violations of the Victim Rights Act revealed systemic problems in the office. We expect new leadership will improve the important work of the office. Our focus has been to ensure that the DA’s office in the 12th Judicial District complies with the law and treats crime victims with respect and dignity. Our action required DA Payne to do just that. Even with a new district attorney, those requirements will continue to apply.”
Payne’s resignation also eliminates the need for a special recall election which the city of Alamosa had successfully petitioned for and was waiting for the governor to set a recall election date.
“Our office is committed to serving the people of the San Luis Valley in this interim role as effectively as possible, and our aim is to help put a new DA on a path to success,” Weiser said. “We thank the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council and district attorneys across the state for being willing to help support the Valley, advance public safety, and protect victims during this transition.”
Alamosa Police Chief Ken Anderson, who brought concerns about the DA forward and pushed for his recall before the Alamosa City Council, said he was “relieved” by Payne’s resignation.
“Now the community has room to rebuild,” Anderson said.
Payne, in his resignation letter, said his departure will “spare the cost and divisiveness of a recall election to overturn the will of the voters.”
Payne offered his resignation just before a deadline to establish a date for the recall election. If he didn’t resign by Wednesday, Polis was ready to set a recall election date, according to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.
Former DA Robert Willett had submitted his name to replace Payne if there was a recall election. Willett is currently facing a single count of felony embezzlement in district court following a Payne investigation into Willett. Payne defeated Willett in the Democratic primary election in 2020 and then ran unopposed in the general election.
Willett’s case is back in court on Thursday for a pre-trial readiness hearing. His trial is tentatively set for August 31.