January 2011
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An unwise action by our new DA

By Galen Larson

In case you missed it, the new DA in the 22nd Judicial District has made a really foolish move.

As I get it from reading the Cortez Journal, our DA-elect, Russell Wasley, came to a DUI trial on Nov. 16 to inform one of his soon-to-be employees, in the courtroom before the start of the trial, that he might not get a promised raise next year.

The employee, an assistant DA, went ahead with the trial until noon, but his supervisor decided he was so distracted by hearing that he wouldn’t get just compensation for his job that he could not continue the prosecution. At the request of the supervisor, the trial was ended and the charges dismissed.

The alleged offender in the trial has a revoked license for a previous alcohol-related offense, but after this debacle, he had to be set free before the jury could decide whether he was guilty or not on this new charge.

This act by a person elected to serve in a very vital position in government warrants considering a recall if anything does. Forget about the foolishness over whether the city of Cortez should have a Christmas party or not, or whether the council members should get a free, modest dinner on the nights they have a meeting. Who ever heard about having a recall over such nonsense?

What about actions instead that allow an alleged drunk driver to go back amongst the public? Don’t those types of actions have greater consequences than sponsoring a Christmas party for city staff?

Now, you may say that Mr. Wasley didn’t know any better, but he should have. When I was a superintendent for a worldwide construction company, I knew that the first rule of thumb was: Never discuss termination, wages, discipline or quality of work in public.

This type of discussion should always, always be reserved for office conversations without an audience present. It is a one-onone discussion behind closed doors – never, never right on the job site (where it could cause the employee to be distracted, as it did in this case) or among other employees.

If I had done anything like Mr. Wasley did and the division office had become aware of it, I would have been called in and rebuked immediately.

There were many other ways for our new DA to approach this individual than in the courtroom. If an office isn’t available, couldn’t he have taken him out for coffee? Mr. Wasley had no way of knowing that his behavior would result in a trial being canceled, but he should have known that it could at least cause the prosecutor to be distracted in a way that could have impaired his performance in court.

The DA’s position is a very critical one. It has to do with murder, mayhem and mischief, also long-lasting effects on people’s lives. This blunder by Mr. Wasley raises questions about whether he is qualified to take on the responsibility of administering this office and supervising his staff.

This man was elected not because of his qualifications but through herd mentality, riding the tide that swept a lot of conservatives into office. Well, sometimes herd mentality can get one in quite a predicament. Ask a lemming.

Galen Larson writes from rural Montezuma County, Colo.


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