5 finalists for county attorney
The field of applicants for Mesa County attorney has been narrowed to five Coloradans.
Nineteen people from across the country applied for the post, left vacant by the Feb. 14 retirement of Lyle Dechant. Mesa County commissioners narrowed the field to five applicants Monday during an executive session. After checking to make sure all five were still interested in the job, the county released the names of the five finalists:
■ Patrick Coleman, a Denver attorney.
■ David Frankel, the current interim Mesa County attorney.
■ Eric Gross, a Carbondale attorney.
■ Alan Hassler, a Grand Junction attorney who used to work in the Mesa County Attorney’s Office.
■ Martha Whitmore, county attorney for Ouray County.
Candidates will be interviewed by a panel April 24 and by county commissioners April 25. Mesa County Administrator Tom Fisher said he expects a new county attorney to be chosen and put to work as early as late May or early June.
Dechant announced his retirement in January after 31 years at the county. His retirement letter included a stipulation that he receive more than $30,000 in severance pay in accordance with his contract, which allowed for compensation if his services were “terminated.” Dechant told The Daily Sentinel he planned to retire within the next couple years but left this winter because he felt commissioners Rose Pugliese and John Justman wanted him out.
Pugliese and Justman have said they want the next county attorney to have a broad range of knowledge and experience with federal and Colorado issues.
Pugliese said she also wants someone who is a good communicator and someone interested in exploring changes to the amount of work the county attorney’s office outsources.
Pugliese is one of just four female leaders — all elected — remaining in the county’s 17 main administration positions following a reorganization kicked off Monday that consolidated five director positions into two deputy administrator positions. Penny McCarty is still executive director of Mesa County Animal Services but her position now reports to Dennis Berry, head of the new Justice Services Division.
Whitmore would become Mesa County’s first female county attorney and the only non-elected woman administrator in the county if she is hired. Dechant was the first Mesa County attorney after he took over for Gerald Ashby, who had been serving as attorney for both the county and the city of Grand Junction.