ALAMOSA — If elected as Colorado attorney general, Michael Dougherty would place a regional office in the San Luis Valley, the candidate said during a visit to Alamosa on Friday.
“We should have staff living and working in the communities they are sworn to serve,” Dougherty said.
The Democratic candidate for AG said one of his first priorities would be to set up regional offices throughout the state to better represent the AG’s office at the local level and have on-site staff available to assist with the various issues under the jurisdiction of the AG’s office.
The AG’s office covers a broad spectrum of legal issues from criminal justice to the environment, consumer protection, health care, immigration, water and other issues.
The Colorado AG’s office is staffed with 250 attorneys (480 total staff), which is not a daunting number for Dougherty who has managed the budget for a staff of 1,200 in a district attorney’s office in Manhattan and currently is second in charge at the DA’s office for Jefferson and Gilpin Counties, with a staff of 200, 70 of whom are attorneys.
Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., Dougherty was raised in a working class environment and graduated from a community college before going on to Cornell University and Boston University School of Law. He worked for 12 years in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in New York City, where he rose through the ranks to Deputy Chief of the Sex Crimes Unit and later managed the budget and personnel for the entire office.
“My wife and I made a conscious choice to move to Colorado,” he said.
The “incredibly meaningful opportunity” arose in the AG’s office under John Suthers’ tenure for Dougherty to begin a Conviction Integrity Unit, which has since been dissolved but which Dougherty would reinstate if elected. The unit reviewed cases of possible wrongful conviction where folks serving time in prison were actually innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted. The new unit’s efforts led to the exoneration of Robert Dewey, for example, a man who had served 17 years in prison for a Grand Junction rape and murder he did not commit.
Dougherty said while involved with that unit through the AG’s office he had the opportunity to work with district attorney’s offices throughout the state.
Suthers then put Dougherty in charge of the criminal justice section of the AG’s office where he worked with district attorneys and law enforcement throughout the state. In his current role with the Jefferson and Gilpin Counties’ district attorney’s office, he also works closely with law enforcement.
He has already received endorsements from law enforcement officials such as the Pueblo and Boulder sheriffs and while in Alamosa on Friday received the endorsement of Alamosa County Sheriff Robert Jackson. Dougherty said he toured the Alamosa County jail and was struck with the crowded conditions.
Agreeing with Jackson that drugs are one of the major reasons many of the inmates are in jail, Dougherty said the state’s drug problem would be one of his priorities as AG.
“We have a real painkiller and heroin epidemic including here in Alamosa,” he said. “We need to do a lot more to build up the resources of the community.”
He added, “We need a real statewide effort with medical providers, treatment programs, law enforcement and the court system. The AG is perfectly suited to lead those efforts to really make a difference in breaking the painkiller and heroin addiction cycle we have in the state.”
Another priority for Dougherty would be prosecuting environmental crimes, he said. Colorado has some of the best environmental laws nationwide, but if those are not enforced, the state’s landscape is at risk, Dougherty explained. He added that local law enforcement might not have the resources to respond to such crimes, which is where the AG’s office can come in.
It was Colorado’s healthy lifestyle appeal that helped draw Dougherty, his wife and their twins to the state, he said, and he wants to help protect that.
Another priority for Dougherty is consumer protection especially for vulnerable populations such as senior citizens and immigrants who are often the target of scams. College students represent another targeted group, Dougherty said, as they are drawn into loan scams.
Water is another priority for Dougherty.
“I would continue to fight for Colorado’s water,” he said. “It’s such an important issue. I feel fortunate to have worked at the AG’s office and understand the importance of future leadership around water issues, making sure we do the right thing for local communities and all of Colorado.”
Dougherty said although the campaign for AG is political, “I have a commitment to do what’s right.”