“In the interest of brevity, I’ll try to keep it as short and concise as possible,” city attorney Jason Meyers promised. I was skeptical. No lawyer can resist the allure of long, drawn-out soliloquies–and that was exactly what council members would get here.
However, I immediately became less concerned about the length of the monologue and more concerned about the dire situation erupting in Fort Morgan.
“Every year the state legislature passes another set of bills that restricts the ability of the municipal court to operate,” Meyers began solemnly. “More recent changes have stated that if anybody is in custody on a jailable offense, regardless of whether they’re indigent, they have to have a court-appointed attorney available at the time they’re talking to a judge.”
Seems reasonable enough, yes? Right to counsel. Habeas corpus. Gluteus maximus. The bedrock of our country!
“How do we have a court-appointed attorney available every Wednesday, whether we have cases?” Meyers asked rhetorically. “We’re paying an attorney to sit there just in case.”
Ah yes, the other bedrock of our country: money. But listen, buddy, if you knew this was gonna cause problems, you should have said something about it earlier.
“I did go to the legislature two years ago and testify,” explained Meyers. “I got grilled for about 30 minutes. It felt like hours. In essence, they don’t care about the rural communities. This is the result.”
The council listened stoically to the scenario. I am sure this can be resolved without drastic measures.
“We removed jail as an option for most municipal court violations. You can still be written into municipal court for assault and disorderly [conduct] and resisting arrest. We just can’t put you in jail for it anymore if this passes,” he concluded.
“This” being the following proposal from Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Northrup: “I would offer a resolution eliminating jail as a possible penalty in Fort Morgan municipal court cases and request to schedule a public hearing.”
Mayor Ron Shaver waited a beat. “Roll call.”
A string of lighted domes blazed green in front of council members as everyone voted yes. Let that be a lesson: if you’re looking for a place to resist arrest for being disorderly, Eastern Colorado is the promise land.
There was little time to dwell on the fate of the jail or ponder the imminence of anarchy. Winter was fast approaching and Fort Morgan had a reputation to uphold:
“When people ask, ‘why are we the Christmas Capital of the Plains,’ it’s because we do more in the four weeks before Christmas than any other community in Colorado,” city manager Jeffrey Wells bragged to the council–and, technically, to any other council in earshot.
“I would tell anybody to try and take us on,” he challenged brazenly.
“You may have seen in the paper,” Wells continued, “that our very own [Director of Public Works] Steve Glammeyer was awarded the–”
He halted in search of the name.
“William E. Korbitz!” yelled someone from the side.
“–the William E. Korbitz Award with the Colorado Chapter of the American Public Works Association,” recovered Wells. “So thanks a lot, Steve.”
The room broke into applause and Wells grinned fiendishly. “He HATES it when we do this.”
“Do it again!” someone hollered. A second round of applause and whoops thundered down for Steve. Luckily, they could get as disorderly as they wanted–it’s not like they’ll go to jail.