Updated: Commissioner James Newberry resigns | SkyHiNews.com

Updated: Commissioner James Newberry resigns

Grand County Commissioner James Newberry
Sky-Hi News file photo | Sky-Hi News

Grand County Commissioner James Newberry has resigned, a county official has confirmed.

Commissioner Merrit Linke said he received a letter from Newberry announcing his resignation on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

The letter stated that Newberry’s resignation would be effective upon its acceptance by the Grand County Democratic Party, Linke said.

Grand County Democratic Party Chair Sandy Doudna confirmed the party had accepted Newberry’s resignation.

“It’s really sad that it’s come to this, but I understand his reasoning,” Doudna said. “We will miss him and wish him well.”

Newberry had not returned multiple requests for comment as of press time.

The announcement came two days before Newberry was due in court for a motions hearing.

The former county commissioner is facing charges over allegations that he charged both Grand County and the Colorado River District, where he serves on the board of directors, for the same mileage to travel to district meetings.

Newberry is also alleged to have charged Grand County for mileage to Northwest Colorado Council of Governments meetings that minutes indicate he did not attend.

5th Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown, the case’s special prosecutor, has charged Newberry with 24 felony counts of attempting to influence a public servant, 24 felony counts of embezzlement of public property and five misdemeanor counts of official misconduct.

Newberry has pled not guilty to the charges.

The conduct is alleged to have occurred between January 2009 and September 2013.

Judge Terry Ruckriegle recently dismissed two motions from Newberry’s attorneys that sought to have certain charges and entries from the prosecution’s complaint dismissed.

On Nov. 9, Ruckriegle issued an order denying Newberry’s motion to dismiss 20 entries from the complaint enumerating specific instances in which Newberry was alleged to have committed a crime.

The entries in question were 20 dates on which Newberry was alleged to have committed felonies by “double dipping” on mileage from the county and the Colorado River District.

Newberry’s attorney argued that the entries should be dismissed because Newberry was serving two separate roles at each meeting making him eligible to receive reimbursement from both entities.

Ruckreigle writes that the 20 entries “are questions of fact to be determined by a jury.”

Ruckriegle also denied Newberry’s motion to dismiss charges that his attorney claimed fell outside of the statute of limitations.

The judge ruled that the statute of limitations “was tolled” and did not begin to run until the county was made aware of the alleged misconduct on July 10, 2014.

The prosecution filed its complaint “within the requisite time frame,” Ruckriegle wrote.

Ruckriegle will rule on the prosecution’s motion for change of venue and a 404b motion, which seeks to introduce evidence of “other crimes, wrongs or acts,” during the Nov. 20 hearing at 1:30 p.m.

Local party has chance to choose successor

The Grand County Democratic Party may now convene a vacancy committee to choose Newberry’s successor.

The party has already selected the 11-person vacancy committee, which includes three members of the local party board, three commissioner district representatives and five former chairs of the local party, Doudna said.

The committee has 10 days from Nov. 18, the date the resignation was effective, to select a replacement, though it may not discuss candidates or vote on a replacement during the first six days, Doudna said.

Rather, the committee may only discuss the processes by which it will choose a new candidate during that period.

The party has tentatively scheduled a conference call for 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 28 during which the committee will vote on Newberry’s successor, Doudna said.

District Court Judge Mary Hoak will swear the new commissioner in on Monday, Nov. 30, Doudna said.

If the committee does not choose a new commissioner, Governor John Hickenlooper must select one within 15 days of the resignation.

“If we don’t get this done then the governor does it, so we intend to get this done,” Doudna said.

Candidates can campaign to committee members individually but cannot campaign to the group as a whole, Doudna said.

Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.

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