No extra term for Summit DA
summit daily news
SUMMIT COUNTY – Lake County Commissioners put the kibosh on Fifth District Attorney Mark Hurlbert’s aim to let voters decide whether to extend his office’s term limits from eight to 12 years.
While commissioners in Summit, Eagle and Clear Creek counties favored the ballot item, it took only one of the Fifth Judicial District’s counties to negate the vote.
“I don’t think there was a strong feeling of any of the commissioners knowing Mark – personally or professionally – very well,” Lake County Commissioner Mike Bordogna said. “I think that lack of personal connection made us turn more to the public.”
He said numerous residents attended a meeting in August to argue that “term limits serve a very good purpose.”
Colorado is the only state to hold its DAs to two, four-year terms. Voters may change the limits if county commissioners agree to put the item on their local ballots – but all voters in a district must have the opportunity.
Ted Tow, executive director of Colorado District Attorneys Council, said Friday that DAs in the First (Gilpin, Jefferson), 20th (Boulder) and 21st (Mesa) districts this year succeeded in getting term-limit extensions on their local ballots.
District elsewhere, including Denver and Weld counties, have established three-term limits through elections, and Pueblo’s district attorney has no term limit.
Lake County Commissioner Carl Schaefer said he thought Hurlbert’s request for a vote to extend the limits from just two to three terms appeared “a little self-serving.”
“Had it been for unlimited terms, that’s one thing. But just to extend it for the purpose of serving one particular person – I didn’t quite agree with it,” Schaefer said.
Hurlbert is out of the office this week and was unavailable for comment. He previously said the extended term limits were justified because the job has become more complex and it takes time for a newly elected DA to get the office moving forward and programs under way.
He had also said he was uncertain whether the change would affect him. Hurlbert was appointed in 2002 and first elected in 2004.
Summit County Commissioner Bob French said “we thought it was a good idea” to extend the term limits.
Clear Creek County Commissioner Harry Dale said that considering how long it takes to get a county commissioner “up to speed,” Hurbert’s argument was justifiable considering his office encompasses four counties.
“We had no problem at all putting that on the ballot,” he said. “Perhaps Lake County has some issues with the DA, so that’ll give Mark incentive to resolve whatever (issues exist).”
DAs are subject to the term limits because of an amendment added to the Colorado Constitution in 1994 that imposed two four-year terms on any nonjudicial elected official. Until a Colorado Supreme Court decision in 2004, many districts interpreted the language to exempt DAs.
Tow has said there are certainly arguments in favor of extending or eliminating the term limits – such as it could lessen political aspects to the top law enforcer in that jurisdiction.
He said the timing of several DAs trying to have term limits extended this year is likely due to the fact 16 of 22 were new in January 2005 and they’ve since entered their second terms.
Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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