By Rick Langenberg
The legal and political problems for Woodland Park Mayor Dave Turley continue to mount since he was arrested late last month for sexual assault of a child by a person of trust, a class-four felony.
However, Turley, the town’s head mayor since 2012, has denied any wrongdoing and is still retaining his head elected leadership post. He doesn’t have to surrender his seat, unless he is convicted of the cited charges. His next court appearance is scheduled for July 21.
But time may not be on Turley’s side.
Last week, a group of citizens announced plans to try to recall Turley, citing Woodland Park’s family-oriented image. They hope to submit paper work this week. “I was shocked and horrified, truly shocked and horrified,” said resident Ann Brown, who is heading the recall, according to a television interview aired on KRDO. “My initial reaction was, ‘I hope it’s not true,’ I still hope it’s not true…”We are a wholesome, family-oriented community with high moral standards.”These criminal allegations cast a shadow and darkness over us, and as a community, we must not tolerate this type of impropriety in the office of the mayor,” she added in the television report.
Brown has reportedly started forming a committee, in an effort to force Turley to step down. In the last few weeks, a few civic leaders have privately told The Mountain Jackpot that it may be time for Turley to step down due to the image it may convey for the town. At the same time, the mayor has his share of supporters.
But Turley, who attended a recent council meeting, has indicated he hasn’t made any decisions pertaining to his future political role in Woodland Park. “I take one day at a time,” said Turley, following the June 5 council meeting, when he made a surprise appearance. During the council meeting, Turley didn’t discuss anything pertaining to his case or his future with the city and took a business as usual attitude.
In his few comments regarding the incident, Turley has stressed that the allegations have been extremely difficult for him personally. “I am absolutely devastated. My community is my life,” said the mayor, who has vowed to fight the charges 100 percent. Recently, more details have been released through the arrest affidavit, indicating that the charges may have stemmed from Turley’s ties to a 17-year-old boy, whom he was mentoring.
In the arrest warrant, officials claim the investigation began in April when two different people contacted police to report concerns over the relationship between Turley and the alleged victim, a 17-year-old boy. The warrant says police were contacted by a staff member at Woodland Park Middle School. The employee reportedly told police that a relative of the alleged victim came to her with concerns about Turley’s relationship with the boy. According to the affidavit, another person who contacted the police questioned certain pictures on Facebook that he believes were not appropriate. The man also reportedly told the police that he had heard that Turley was paying for the alleged victim to go to college, telling the officer, “Just look into it, it’s just too weird.”
According to the warrant, friends and relatives of the alleged victim were questioned regarding the boy’s relationship with Turley. Turley was arrested in late May, following questioning by authorities of the Woodland Park Police and Colorado Springs Police, who assisted with the investigation, at the WP Police Station. According to WP Police Chief Bob Larson, Turley’s arrest occurred after a several week investigation during which about 10 people were interviewed.
The incident has stunned many local residents. Turley was a popular elected leader who won both of his mayoral contests by wide margins. Turley, a long-time resident of Woodland Park, also served on the city council for two years and had been strongly involved with American Legion group. He has been a familiar participant at many local events.
City officials have remained tight-lipped about the situation, saying that the mayor is entitled to due process. Current charter rules don’t permit the mayor to be removed unless he is recalled, decides to step down from office, can’t physically serve, or is convicted of a felony.