The Daily Press submitted five questions to District Attorney candidates, Democrat Tammy Stewart and Republican Elizabeth Oldham. Answers to the first two questions were published in the Sept. 20 Saturday Morning Press.
Below are their responses to the final three questions.
Q: What new programs would you implement, if elected?
A: Stewart: I have several new programs to implement, including a District Attorney Advisory Board in each county, made up of citizens who will meet monthly. The goal is to keep in touch with local concerns and issues. I will have an open-door policy so that the district attorney is accessible to anyone. I am very excited about implementing alternative youth programs for the unique issues affecting rural and rural/resort youth. The purpose of the juvenile law is to rehabilitate youth and work toward the child's best interest. A teen court will invest children in their own justice system and still have effective consequences to deter crime; restorative justice programs that humanize the victim to juveniles will be effective as a deterrent. Expanding diversion and adding alternative youth programs for minor offenses saves taxpayers money by keeping juvenile cases out of the court system, and results in appropriate consequences to rehabilitate kids and keep them whole.
I have previous experience in domestic violence fast-track programs and believe it is an important program for our domestic violence victims, children and offenders. It gets domestic violence cases in the court system almost immediately so we can provide services to children and victims and get quick treatment for offenders. All these programs can be grant-funded or initiated with current budgets so as not to result in increased costs to taxpayers during these tough economic times.
Oldham: I intend to implement a domestic violence fast track program. The amount of domestic violence cases that plague our court system is distressing, and as a current board member for the Advocates for Victims of Assault, I have witnessed first hand the tragedy of domestic violence. Family violence is a critical community issue because children not only witness violence, but also they endure abuse. Children from violent homes often grow up perpetuating the cycle of violence by either abusing or suffering violence from their partner.
A domestic violence fasttrack program ensures first-time offenders are held accountable immediately and subsequently enter domestic violence treatment. Swift accountability and treatment are essential to curb domestic violence. I also intend to implement a citizen-advisory board to build public confidence. The district attorney is a public servant who is entrusted with tremendous power to help bring about justice. Public input is vital in measuring success in providing public safety. The citizen advisory board will provide a public forum, which will meet with the district attorney to discuss the performance of the District Attorney's Office.
Q: How do you view the current relationship between the DA's office and law enforcement, and how would you improve upon this relationship?
A: Oldham: When I undertook the leadership of the Grand County District Attorney's Office last year, the relationship between the office and law enforcement was strained. I aggressively undertook steps to repair the relationship by seeking input from all positions in law enforcement, including the sheriff, chiefs of police, detectives, troopers, deputies and other officers, and then promptly addressed their concerns.
I have a strong relationship with law enforcement because I am accessible 24/7 to discuss cases, questions and concerns. Since I have the respect of Grand County law enforcement, I have the ability to effectively address issues that arise. Since becoming the assistant district attorney, I have also begun to take these same ideas and plans and implement them to improve relationships with law enforcement in Routt and Moffat counties.
I believe the current relationship between the District Attorney's Office and law enforcement in Moffat County is improving because there has been increased communication. I have the background and experience to strengthen the relationship with law enforcement. As the chief deputy district attorney in Summit County and the assistant district attorney in Grand County for several years, I have built a strong relationship with law enforcement through mutual respect, forthrightness and dedication to public safety.
Stewart: I believe there is a strained and distrusting relationship between law enforcement and the current District Attorney's Office. Law enforcement and the District Attorney's Office needs to work as a team effort to serve and protect the community. The district attorney is the highest law enforcement position and needs to use that authority to help lead and train law enforcement so our community is safer and civil and constitutional rights of all are protected.
I have been involved in law enforcement training throughout my career and focused on prosecution of crimes against children, sexual assaults and domestic violence. I recently did training for Moffat County law enforcement on legal issues involving child abuse cases and preparation for testimony. Several officers stated they had never received that type of training from the District Attorney's Office and it was very valuable.
My District Attorney's Office will be involved in frequent joint trainings with law enforcement. My deputies will be required to do one ride-along with every law enforcement agency in their jurisdiction one time per year. I am currently meeting with law enforcement all over the jurisdiction to receive input for a better relationship between the two offices and a better District Attorney's Office overall. Communication is the key to a better relationship.
Q: Why are you the best candidate to vote for this November?
A: Stewart: I am the only candidate with the experience, reason and leadership abilities necessary for our highest law enforcement position. I have 19 years' experience as an attorney, and 12 years' experience as a prosecutor in Colorado. That is nearly twice the experience of my opponent both in overall attorney years and deputy district attorney experience. I have the support of a wide array of the community, including teachers, lawyers, medical professionals, law enforcement and previously elected district attorneys.
I have extensive experience in successfully prosecuting crimes against children, domestic violence and serious and violent felonies including murder. I received the Heroes Award from the Jefferson County Child Advocacy Center in 2001, 2002 and 2003 for my work with child victims. I was nominated as one of two finalists by the 14th Judicial District nominating committee in 2007 for a District Court Judge position and met with Gov. Bill Ritter. I received an award from Coors for teaching Courtrooms to Classrooms to ninth grade civics students. I participate yearly in Law Day for elementary students.
This is not a partisan position or partisan race. The public must elect the District Attorney with the most experience, and leadership skills necessary to make the positive changes necessary in our District Attorney's Office.
Oldham: I have the most extensive experience in a District Attorney's Office, and am a dedicated and committed career prosecutor. In the past 10 years, I have handled nearly 100 trials, including homicides, crimes against children, sexual assaults, drug cases and violent felonies. A few weeks ago, I successfully prosecuted a first-degree murder trial in the death of a 1-year-old child in Steamboat Springs. I have also been awarded Trial Attorney of the Year for my extensive trial experience.
In Summit County, I was the "go-to" prosecutor for the drug task force team, so I have extensive experience in successfully prosecuting all types of drug cases. I have also prosecuted all of the adult and child sexual assault cases, which are often some of the most difficult cases. Currently, I manage all of the felonies in Grand County, and my prosecution philosophy is to be tough, but fair. I am also a mentor to many of the new prosecutors within the district.
... I have the management experience to lead the District Attorney's Office. Having a law degree does not guarantee that a person will be a good leader. I have a proven track record in leading district attorney's offices. I successfully managed the Summit County District Attorney's Office, which has more employees than any of the offices in the 14th Judicial District. I currently manage the Grand County District Attorney's Office, and I have not only improved relationships with law enforcement, but I have also increased job satisfaction within the office. Given my extensive trial experience, commitment and positive attitude, I am a new leader that is needed for the District Attorney's Office.