Steamboat Springs Candidates Elizabeth Oldham and Tammy Stewart were critical of management of the District Attorney's Office, addressing issues including prosecutor turnover and public perception during a candidates forum hosted by the Steamboat Springs Rotary Club on Tuesday.
Stewart and Oldham are both vying to replace Republican Bonnie Roesink, who is retiring at the end of her term after 21 years as a prosecutor in the 14th Judicial District, encompassing Routt, Moffat and Grand counties.
Oldham criticized the way prosecutors are "micromanaged" under the current district attorney and noted leadership ability is the most important part of the job.
"I will give (prosecutors) the discretion to handle cases appropriately, and that will help with turnover," Oldham said Tuesday, during the luncheon forum at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel.
High turnover long has been considered a problem across the 14th Judicial District. The Routt County District Attorney's Office has had 100 percent turnover in the past year.
Stewart specifically cited mismanagement as the reason she left her job as a deputy district attorney in Routt County.
"I didn't just stop being a prosecutor. : I left because of the management," she said. "I'm running for change."
Stewart, 45, is an assistant Moffat County attorney prosecuting child abuse cases. She operates a private practice in Steamboat Springs, where she lives with her husband and children. She spent 12 years as a prosecutor in Alamosa, Morgan, Jefferson and Routt counties, prosecuting cases in Steamboat Springs in 2005 and 2006.
Oldham, 37, has served as assistant district attorney of the 14th Judicial District since May. She has seven years of experience as a prosecutor in Grand and Summit counties and lives in Grand Lake with her husband.
There has been a disconnect between the public and the District Attorney's Office, and public confidence only can be resolved with transparency and accessibility, Oldham said.
To that effect, the candidates support creating some kind of citizen advisory board - and that isn't the only thing they agree on. Oldham and Stewart cited drug cases as an area the district attorney needs to focus on, and each wants to start a fast-track program for domestic violence court cases to speed up the delivery of treatment and social services to victims and families.
Stewart described herself as a "gigantic fan" of restorative justice, and she said its institution would drive down recidivism, especially among juvenile offenders.
"What restorative justice does is restore the victim to where they were before the crime occurred, and the perpetrator actively participates," Stewart said, citing an example where a juvenile who broke a window would work to earn the money to fix it.
Oldham did not disagree with the principles behind restorative justice, but she painted a less rosy picture of such programs and said juvenile diversion programs are more successful for youth offenders.
"There are many cases where (restorative justice) won't work, because the victim doesn't want to participate and see the perpetrator," Oldham said.
When asked what differentiates them from their opponent, both women said their experience better suits them to lead the 14th Judicial District.
Oldham cited her experience running offices in Grand and Summit counties, and painted herself as more dedicated to the job than her opponent, who stopped being a prosecutor two years ago. Stewart emphasized that she spent more time in prosecution and has been an attorney for nearly 20 years, twice as long as her opponent, and she said when she left the Routt County District Attorney's Office in dissatisfaction, it was with the intent of running for office to resolve her concerns.