San Luis Valley district attorney resigns amid a state investigation and mandate to improve his office

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Grain silos in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, July 1, 2022.

The San Luis Valley district attorney who was under fire for how he has treated crime victims has resigned.

Alonzo Payne submitted a resignation letter to Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday afternoon, saying he wanted to “spare the cost and divisiveness” of a recall election. 

His resignation comes after Attorney General Phil Weiser announced an agreement to compel the office to overhaul its victim support services. State officials found several substantiated complaints that found that both Payne and his staffers belittled, yelled and failed to effectively support victims in criminal cases. 

The state agreement between the DA’s office and Weiser requires new policies on how to treat victims of crime and families of victims. Staff will have to go through training and it will all be checked by an independent monitor, who has not been named. 

Once a new DA is in place, that agreement will be in effect for six months, if the office is complying.

“It is apparent to me that the elite of the San Luis Valley and the judicial activists amongst us do not want to see criminal justice reform enacted,” Payne wrote to Polis. “I hope they soon realize that incarcerating the poor and underprivileged is not the solution to address the overarching poverty and substance abuse issues that are rampant in the San Luis Valley.”

Payne’s resignation is effective at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday. In an executive order, Polis appointed Weiser’s office to temporarily fulfill the duties of the district attorney until the governor can name a replacement lead prosecutor, state officials said. 

“Our office is committed to serve the people of the San Luis Valley in this interim role as effectively as possible, and our aim is to help put a new DA on a path to success,” Weiser said, in a statement.

The Colorado District Attorneys Council said in a statement that the 21 other lead district attorneys across the state will also help with prosecutions.

"The district attorneys of Colorado are fully committed to upholding victim rights, ensuring public
safety, and serving the communities of Colorado," the statement said. "Over the past several months, the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council and the other elected district attorneys offered assistance to Mr. Payne and his office including a few offices handling some major cases in the jurisdiction."