Rocky editorial omitted censured District Attorney Chambers' Republican affiliation

Rocky editorial omitted censured District Attorney Chambers' Republican affiliation


The Rocky Mountain News published an editorial agreeing with a regulatory panel's decision to publicly censure Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers for misusing her influence. But the editorial failed to identify Chambers and an acquaintance she aided as elected Republican Party officials.

Agreeing with a three-judge panel's decision to publicly censure Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers for using her office to help a political acquaintance, a December 27 editorial in the Rocky Mountain News failed to note that Chambers and her acquaintance -- Laurett Barrentine -- are elected Republican Party officials.

As The Denver Post reported on October 6, Chambers became the focus of "a state investigation into whether she used her position to intimidate a lawyer hired to collect a debt from an Englewood councilwoman." The Post further reported, "According to the complaint, Chambers threatened to convene a grand jury investigation of Jonathan Steiner, a lawyer for the Central Credit Corp., about the company's tactics in dealing with Englewood City Councilwoman Laurett Barrentine." The News reported on October 7 that "[t]he case against Chambers will go to a three-day trial beginning Oct. 23" and that "Chambers' punishment could range from a private or public admonition, to disbarment ... "

Reporting on the December 26 outcome of the investigation and trial, the News on December 27 stated, "Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers used the power of her office to intimidate a lawyer trying to collect a debt from an Englewood councilwoman Chambers knew, a three-judge panel has found." According to the News, "The Attorney Regulation Counsel, which investigates lawyer misconduct, cleared Chambers on three of the four counts she faced, but said in its decision that she engaged in 'conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.' "

While the same News article noted that "Chambers and Barrentine say they know each other from Republican Party political functions but are not friends," the News editorial from the same day failed to note either Chambers' or Barrentine's Republican affiliation.

According to the December 27 News editorial, the panel "made the proper call on Tuesday when it publicly censured Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers for abusing her office to help out an acquaintance." The editorial continued:

The panel could have disbarred Chambers, but that penalty would be too severe. She was cleared of allegations that she had threatened Jonathan Steiner, a collection agency attorney, for harassing his client's targets.

It did conclude, however, that Chambers tried to intimidate Steiner. Chambers hinted to the lawyer that she might drag him in front of a grand jury, though the only complaint she had about his behavior came from Laurett Barrentine, an Englewood councilwoman Chambers had met at political functions.

In contrast to the News editorial, a December 27 Post editorial asserted, "It should come as no surprise that Chambers and the friend whose interests she was protecting, Laurett Barrentine, are prominent Arapahoe County Republicans." The Post further commented:

Chambers, who should consider herself lucky for getting off so lightly, would do well to apologize for her lapse in judgment, pledge to do better and get on with the business of prosecuting bad guys. Instead, she remains unrepentant.

"I was censured for asking questions," Chambers said, according to KMGH-Channel 7. "I can't even do the most basic of investigations. ... District attorneys cannot let that sit."

As Colorado Media Matters has noted, Chambers was elected to a four-year term as district attorney for Colorado's 18th Judicial District -- covering Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties -- in November 2004. Her husband, Nathan Chambers, who allegedly also was involved in the incidents described in the complaint, is chairman of the Arapahoe County Republican Party. Barrentine, a member of the Arapahoe County Republican Party, was elected to the Englewood City Council in 2003.

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