A former Trinidad district attorney has abruptly dropped out of the race to replace Frank Ruybalid, the embattled top prosecutor in Las Animas and Huerfano counties, saying that the office is so badly underfunded by state and county officials that "the safety of the citizens of this district is at peril.”
Jon Neil Barclay served three terms as the Third Judicial District Attorney from 1983 until 1995. He'd planned to return to public service this year, vowing to improve an office that's been rocked by lawsuits and other fallout from a bungled drug sting as well as disciplinary sanctions against DA Ruybalid for ethical violations. But in withdrawing from the campaign, Barclay issued a statement — first reported on the Trinidad and Las Animas County News Facebook page — lamenting that "the necessary funding to staff and professionally run the district attorney’s office will not be forthcoming" from county commissioners. In previous interviews, Barclay had observed that the current budget for the DA is now less than it was two decades ago.
Ruybalid has maintained that inadequate resources have made it difficult for him to recruit and retain qualified prosecutors, contributing to the complaints against him filed by the Colorado Supreme Court's Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel. Last year, Ruybalid pleaded guilty to thirteen violations of professional-conduct rules and was placed on a form of probation, with his handling of future cases to be monitored by a former judge. But his office has continued to rack up more allegations of mishandling evidence or failing to comply with discovery deadlines — to the extent that he could even have his law license suspended before he can finish his term in office this year.
The turmoil has left only one candidate in the race at present — Henry Solano, a former U.S. Attorney for Colorado. (Both Barclay and Solano are Democrats; no Republican candidate has declared in the race.) As the presumptive heir, Solano will have a lot on his plate, including untangling the fallout from a 2013 drug-sting investigation that resulted in the arrests of forty people — a badly botched operation involving fake drugs, sloppy police work and unreliable informants that resulted in all forty cases being dismissed, as detailed in my 2014 feature "The Snitch Who Stole Christmas."
Barclay could not be reached for comment on his decision.