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New San Luis Valley DA spars with attorney general on oversight

Anne Kelly says she does not need independent monitor ordered for previous DA Alonzo Payne
Posted at 5:00 PM, Feb 06, 2023

ALAMOSA, Colo. — New San Luis Valley District Attorney Anne Kelly wants the state’s attorney general to back off of an agreement to appoint an independent monitor to oversee her office.

But Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser appeared to remain committed to the agreement at a special meeting Monday with area county commissioners in Alamosa.

“This is not at all punitive. This is not going to take long. This is not going to cost much money,” Weiser said during the meeting.

Weiser entered into an agreement to appoint a monitor with previous District Attorney Alonzo Payne in July after Weiser’s office found that Payne had repeatedly violated the state’s Victims’ Rights Act.

Denver7 Investigates spent months looking into claims of victims’ rights violations against Payne and the recall effort against him funded by the City of Alamosa.

Payne resigned shortly after the agreement and was later banned from practicing law. Colorado Gov.Jared Polis appointed Kelly to the post on an interim basis. In November, she was elected to a four-year term.

RELATED: San Luis Valley district attorney faces attorney general investigation, recall effort

She says she has reduced the case backlog that had piled up on Payne’s watch by half and doesn’t feel a monitor is necessary, considering her office would likely have to pay between $5,000 and $10,000 to support the position.

“It is unnecessary. The problem has been solved,” Kelly said during the meeting. “The people of the Valley want the AG's office to leave and let us heal on our own.”

The monitor would have to be approved by Weiser, but paid for through the 12th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which serves six counties in the San Luis Valley.

Kelly said the price tag for this position is too high for her office and the community. She said she presented an option for a monitor who would serve in the position at no cost to her office, but that choice was rejected by Weiser’s office.

“We are living in the poorest part of Colorado. We struggle. We have very little resources. And for the attorney general to come in and say $10,000 is just not that much… it is,” Kelly said. “It seems a little tone deaf to the struggles that this community is facing.”

During the meeting, Weiser said a monitor would still be a benefit to the office and could serve as a “coach” for Kelly.

“We wouldn’t be suggesting this monitor if we didn’t think it was going to be useful and helpful as part of the process,” he said.

Kelly spoke to Denver7 Investigates via Zoom after the meeting and stressed that she does not need oversight and noted that other DAs across the state do not have a coach.

“I have been a career prosecutor and I know when I need help and I’m able to ask for it,” she said. “I simply don’t need a coach to the extent that requires me to take away from the work that I’m doing.”

Several community leaders and some victims who had filed complaints against Payne spoke during the special meeting in support of Kelly, saying she’s turned the office around.

A statement from Weiser’s office to Denver7 Investigates read: “As Attorney General Weiser said at the meeting, DA Kelly has made excellent strides in improving the office, responding to victims, and protecting their rights. AG Weiser is very grateful for the input from the county commissioners and law enforcement leaders. The meeting yielded promising approaches that are worth investigating. Following the meeting, the Attorney General’s Office contacted DA Kelly about next steps that will protect victims and help the Valley.”