Mesa commission begins search for county attorney

The search for Mesa County’s next county attorney is on.

Mesa County commissioners adopted a resolution Monday morning formalizing the decision to make Chief Assistant Attorney David Frankel the acting Mesa County attorney starting at 5 p.m. Friday, when Mesa County Attorney Lyle Dechant’s retirement becomes official. County officials anticipate a permanent county attorney will begin work in May.

Commissioners also adopted a resolution Monday setting the definition of duties they expect a future county attorney to perform.

The county began advertising the attorney position late last week on the county website, on Internet sites related to attorney and county government jobs, and in The Daily Sentinel. The job listing echoes points in Monday’s resolution, including expectations that the next county attorney be prepared to conduct policy research, oversee the County Attorney’s Office, analyze potential legislation and regulations, provide legal counsel for county administration and legal representation for county employees and elected officials, and give advice to departments that have legal questions, among other duties.

The job description also asks the next county attorney to respond to questions from county employees and elected officials as well as community members, handle media information requests, and communicate “orally and in writing, clearly and effectively.” Transparency and legal service outsourcing were two of the areas Commissioner Rose Pugliese said she would like to see improvement in the county attorney’s office when she was asked last week about Dechant’s retirement. Pugliese and Commissioner John Justman voted Feb. 3 to accept Dechant’s resignation letter, while Commissioner Steve Acquafresca voted against it.

Dechant said last week he planned to retire in a couple years but decided to leave early because the commission was “looking at going in a different direction.” The 2-1 vote to accept his retirement meant commissioners also agreed to fulfill a section in his contract that allows him to collect the equivalent of three months of salary and benefits in the event he is terminated. That amounts to nearly $32,000, plus pay for any vacation or sick leave he has accrued.

The position will be advertised through Feb. 28. Applicants must be 25 or older, be a member of the bar of the Supreme Court of Colorado, and have at least eight years of legal experience with at least four of those years in Colorado. The job posting advertises an annual salary between $104,084 and $134,000.


COMMENTS

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“Transparency and legal service outsourcing were two of the areas Commissioner Rose Pugliese said she would like to see improvement in the county attorney’s office when she was asked last week about Dechant’s retirement.” Transparency—from this Board? So what was the conversation that compelled Dechant to resign immediately at the expense of the Mesa County taxpayer? Shouldn’t that be transparent??

Maybe after his retirement, Mr. Dechant will be willing to explain publicly what the county going in a “different direction” really means, so we can better understand what these two county commissioners are up to. There is always far more to these situations than indicated by the platitudes citizens are fed about the circumstances.

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