Search for new county attorney to begin quickly

Recruitment for a new Mesa County attorney could begin as early as this week following the announcement Monday of County Attorney Lyle Dechant’s retirement.

Mesa County commissioners and Mesa County Administrator Tom Fisher met Tuesday afternoon to discuss next steps after the board of commissioners voted 2-1 Monday morning to accept Dechant’s resignation letter. The letter, submitted Jan. 29 to Board Chair John Justman, announces Dechant’s plans to retire Feb. 14 with the condition that he receive the equivalent of three months’ pay, benefits and retirement matching funds, equal to nearly $32,000, plus any outstanding vacation or sick leave.

Dechant’s employment contract allows for those terms “In the event Dechant’s services are terminated by the Board (of commissioners) prior to the expiration of the initial term” of his contract, but not if he voluntarily resigns.

Commissioners reviewed a recruitment timeline presented by staff Tuesday that begins with the county placing ads for a new county attorney in newspapers and online as early as Thursday. Recruitment is scheduled to close Feb. 28 and county staff will screen resumes for qualified applicants in early March. Commissioners are expected to present a list of final candidates March 17, conduct interviews April 7-8, and offer the job to one finalist April 11.

Commissioners discussed an annual salary range for the next county attorney, tentatively settling on $104,000 to $134,000 based on a public employers compensation survey of Colorado city and county attorneys.

“It would be highly unlikely to hire someone at the top of that range,” Commissioner Rose Pugliese said.

“It’s going to be the exceptional person we would hire at over $130,000,” Commissioner Steve Acquafresca added.

Dechant earned $118,450 a year as of this time last year.

May 12 is the proposed start date for a new county attorney. Assistant County Attorney David Frankel will serve as interim county attorney until a permanent county attorney is hired.


COMMENTS

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Here’s what I predict on this issue.  Our County Commissioners that want transparency and sound knowledge of “Western” issues will look no further then Rick Wagner. Mr.Wagner was a founding member of Western Slope Conservative Alliance and with the support of the “Tea Party” and “American Patriots,” since John Justman and Rose Pugliese are, shall we say, peripheral members, will go through the motions of interviews and decision consternation and come up with Rick Wagner. A fact is Attorney Rick Wagner was part of the membership of the Airport Board being scrutinized. If he is on the short list to be considered, his attentions may not be fully on the County at present. Our Commissioners need to do due diligence and balance their choice with the needs of the County now and in the future as they will not hold their seats forever.

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