Tammy Stewart, Democratic candidate for the 14th Judicial District Attorney, speaks with Craig residents Tuesday during what she said was a public meeting held at the Craig branch of the Moffat County Libraries. The meeting was intended to gather feedback from the community about the District Attorney's Office, Stewart said.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Tammy Stewart, Democratic candidate for the 14th Judicial District Attorney, speaks with Craig residents Tuesday during what she said was a public meeting held at the Craig branch of the Moffat County Libraries. The meeting was intended to gather feedback from the community about the District Attorney's Office, Stewart said.

DA candidate leads public meeting

Stewart denies gathering violated regulations

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— At a gathering Tuesday night at the Craig branch of the Moffat County Libraries, Tammy Stewart, 14th Judicial District Attorney hopeful, met with a group of about seven people.

Her purpose, she said, was to gather feedback on the District Attorney's office and how it could be improved.

Stewart has 19 years of experience, including six years as a public defender in California and 12 years serving as deputy district attorney in several counties, including neighboring Routt County.

Stewart, a Democrat, now acts as assistant Moffat County Attorney. Her opponent is Elizabeth Oldham, a Republican and Assistant District Attorney for the 14th Judicial District, which encompasses Moffat, Routt and Grand counties.

The topic of youths' experiences with the District Attorney's Office became a key subject during Stewart's discussion with the group.

Stewart suggested alternative programs for penalizing youths convicted for various crimes.

"We're putting them in the system," Stewart said. "I don't know that that's helpful to kids."

During the meeting, Stewart asked group members to suggest ways in which teen drinking, drug use and illegal activity could be curbed, as well as how relationships between youths and the District Attorney's office could be improved.

Gathering the public's input on issues affecting the District Attorney's Office was a means of ensuring her platform matched residents' concerns, Stewart said last week in a news release.

Stewart's opponent also has made community feedback a component of her campaign.

When asked to name the largest challenge currently facing the District Attorney's office, Oldham replied, "I would have to say public confidence in the DA's office."

"As I said in the beginning of my candidacy, I plan to have a citizen advisory board in each county so the DA's office will be transparent and accountable to the public," she said.

As the group continued its discussion, Stewart sat with pen in hand, writing down their suggestions.

"You guys would probably know better than anyone what's going to work," she said to the group seated around tables in the rear of the library.

However, the nature of the meeting itself came into question as the evening progressed.

At the gathering, library staff members told Stewart that campaigning on county property, including library facilities, is prohibited.

Sherry Sampson, Moffat County Libraries interim director, was one of them.

"I asked (the group) to leave and they reassured me it wasn't campaigning," she said.

Without the county's definition of campaign activities close at hand at the time, Sampson said, there was little else she could do.

"I can't just kick people out," she said.

Stewart denied her actions violated any regulations.

"I had no intention to campaign," Stewart said. "It was actually just an informal meeting to get input from the public."

Stewart's emphasis on gathering residents' opinions, rather than promoting her platform, made the gathering a public forum, she said, not a campaign event.

The meeting "would really be the public's input, not what I think or what I want to do or what I want to change," she said.

"I just want to make sure I'm on the right track as far as my campaign."

Discrepancies remain concerning the event's booking.

Sampson said library staff had no prior knowledge of the meeting before the group arrived Tuesday night.

A library staff member received a call from an individual last week asking if the library had space available for a meeting, she said, but the individual didn't reserve a meeting time and date with the library.

The unidentified caller didn't specify the meeting's purpose, Sampson said.

"And that is kind of tough," she said, "because we can't ask, 'OK, what is the meeting about?'

"It just kind of irritates me that they didn't sign up a time, date, something," she said. "Then, we would have known what it was for."

The situation posed a new challenge for Sampson and her staff.

"I've been there 15 years," she said. "This has never happened."

Stewart said the meeting time and place was set for Tuesday night.

"The library said we could have a small section of the library tonight and talk to the public and get input from them," Stewart said, adding that the meeting had been arranged for her.

Stewart chose the library, she said, because it offered an accessible location where people could meet.

"It was never my intent to campaign here," she said, adding that the prohibition against campaigning on county property "wasn't anything I had looked into.

"I just knew it was a public informational meeting."

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