Brainard fires parting shots
Grand Junction City Councilor Rick Brainard, who resigned after weeks of public pressure following his arrest on domestic violence charges, said he didn’t step down sooner because he thought the ruckus over his criminal case would settle down.
Brainard, who was facing a recall campaign by a citizen group, told The Daily Sentinel in a phone interview Monday that he didn’t feel he was being effective.
Brainard officially resigned in a letter addressed to the city and dated Thursday. City officials didn’t announce his resignation or release his resignation letter until Monday.
“It was clear to me that what I was doing was not appreciated,” Brainard said about his work on council.
In a one-page letter, Brainard also cited disappointment with working with at least one other board member who would mark up Brainard’s notes at meetings, “clearly written in anger based on the number of underlines and exclamation points, from another councilman, because I didn’t vote the way he wanted me to vote.”
Brainard would not name the councilor to whom he was referring, saying “they know who they are.” But in an attached email to his resignation letter, Brainard identified that councilor as Marty Chazen.
“I would get phone calls all week prior to a vote,” he told the Sentinel, saying some councilors wanted to know how he planned to vote on certain issues. “I’m kind of a wild card. I rarely told them where I stood. I’m a person who sits and listens to the issues.”
Brainard came under fire just days after he was elected when he was arrested on third-degree assault and harassment charges. He ultimately pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and received an 18-month deferred judgment and sentence, meaning the conviction on the assault charge will go away if he stays out of trouble during those 18 months.
During an April 6 altercation with his girlfriend, he admitted to Grand Junction police that he pushed her, slapped her and grabbed her hair and also told police he slapped her because she “needed to shut her mouth,” according to an arrest affidavit.
Those four words, in part, took on a life of their own as advocates against domestic violence hosted rallies with participants who placed duct tape on their mouths and lined their eyes with black eyeliner to illustrate a black eye. Some of those advocates also attended subsequent City Council meetings demanding Brainard resign. A No Brainard Recall Committee campaign was under way, with volunteers planning to hit the streets to gain enough signatures in their 30-day time limit.
Anne Landman, a member of the recall committee, said Brainard’s decision is “a huge relief.”
“It’s going to save taxpayers $45,000, $50,000 for an election,” she said. “All that standing in the hot sun, gearing up at the farmers market, that’s hard work.”
Landman said if any good has come out of the situation, it is that a number of like-minded, progressive thinkers got together and realized they shared the same values. She said the scrutiny into Brainard’s case also revealed a broader issue — that the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, which endorsed Brainard, helped to promote him as a candidate through its separate political arm.
“I hope this town has learned a big lesson not to just blindly vote for who the chamber endorses,” Landman said. “It’s bad choices a lot of the time. We don’t find out until it is way too late.”
But Brainard said he didn’t see himself as a “chambermade,” a term coined about people endorsed and promoted by the chamber. He said he voted to spend money to remodel the Avalon Theatre, when the decision to do so wasn’t popular among some.
“I saved it. I could have voted against the Avalon,” he said. “Council did not know enough and I purposely was not going to vote against the Avalon. I wasn’t going to let it die.”
Brainard said he has learned a lot from domestic violence counseling. He said he has offered to speak out against domestic violence but no one has taken him up on the offer. He also criticized the No Brainard Recall Committee for not putting any links to combat domestic violence on its website.
Landman countered that the website to recall Brainard is not intended to be a resource for domestic violence victims.
“I’m not at all saying I’m not responsible, I am responsible,” Brainard said of his case and his reason for resigning. “It was through counseling that I learned you can only control the things you can control. I can’t control what you write in the newspaper. I can’t control what the recall people say about me so I might as well start controlling the things I can.”
Brainard said he has developed his own business consulting company and he plans to stay in Grand Junction “for the time being.”
Councilor Jim Doody said he appreciated that Brainard didn’t fall into the “voting bloc” on council, yet he didn’t feel he needed to apologize to Brainard for previously voting for a resolution asking him to resign.
“I thought he had a tough row to hoe,” Doody said. “Sometimes the higher you climb the further you fall.”
Councilor Bennett Boeschenstein said he and Brainard sometimes called each other to see how the other was feeling about a certain issue, but Boeschenstein said he didn’t pressure Brainard to vote a certain way.
“He was conscientiously working to learn the issues and (he) helped on some key votes like the Avalon and Las Colonias,” Boeschenstein said.
Mayor Sam Susuras said the council didn’t force Brainard to resign, and he said he doesn’t talk down to other councilors.
Brainard, in his resignation letter, cited a “father figure” attitude on council and said he felt like he was talked down to.
“I don’t talk down to any of my councilors,” Susuras said. “The three (councilors) and myself who elected me as president, I treat equal as the others. I ask all of them if they have comments.”
Chazen couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.