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18th Judicial District Attorney, George Brauchler, loves to tell the same story at his campaign stops as he runs for the Republican nomination for Governor in 2018.
May 26 (7:40 into the video)
"First thing I did was to go to our County Commissioners and ask them to cut my pay, to make me the lowest paid District Attorney in the state of Colorado."
June 1 (2:25 into the video)
"I went to the County Commissioners, and I said, 'I want you to make me the lowest paid DA in the state of Colorado.'"
July 11 (8:09 into the clip)
"So, they looked around. They considered it. Those bastards did it. They made me the lowest paid DA in the state."
July 25 (49:40 into the clip)
"Even before I was sworn in, I went to them -- this was (inaudible) -- and I said, I want you to make me the lowest paid District Attorney in the state of Colorado."
WHAT WE FOUND
When Brauchler won his election in November 2012, he had until his January appointment to have the county commissioners set his salary for his first term.
He tells the story that he asked to be the lowest paid district attorney in Colorado and that the commissioners did that.
We found that he did ask to be the lowest paid DA, but he was only the lowest paid for the first year.
"Originally, when I was contemplating running, I had thought to ask for the same pay I was making as a Major on active duty when I was in Iraq, but there's a statute out there that says you can't do that," Brauchler told 9NEWS.
First, some background.
There is a state law, you probably didn't know about, that requires all DAs to be paid no less than $130,000. The state also pays for 80 percent of the salary ($104,000), with the counties making up the difference and anything beyond $130,000.
Brauchler's judicial district covers four counties: Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln. All four county commissions needed to approve his salary.
"Despite the fact that I asked them to make me the lowest paid DA in the state for all four years, they chose to do it for only one year," said Brauchler. "They got back to me and said, 'we don't want to do that. We don't want to do that because we think you have the biggest, most populous jurisdiction in the state. We don't like the idea of paying you such a low amount that it might discourage others in the future from wanting this job."
The salary that was approved for Brauchler started at $130,000 in 2013, but included raises each year:
- 2013: $130,000
- 2014: $143,000
- 2015: $156,000
- 2016: $165,000
"Do you think when you tell that story that you need to say, 'I asked for this, but it was only for the first year, but this is what I made for the second, third and fourth year," asked 9NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger.
"No, I mean listen, everything that I say when I'm out on the campaign trail is accurate," said Brauchler.
In 2013, when Brauchler was paid the minimum, he joined nine other District Attorneys, mainly in rural parts of Colorado (Districts 5, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 22), as tied for the lowest paid DA with $130,000.
The DAs in the metro areas covering Jefferson, Denver, El Paso and Adams Counties (Districts 1, 2, 4 and 17) all made more than $200,000 in 2013.
According to Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Sharpe, Brauchler did ask to be paid $130,000 for all four years of his first term.
"When County Commissioners got together to discuss compensation for Mr. Brauchler, we respected his wish to reduce his compensation but believed that it was important to set a compensation that would reflect the work required to lead the largest judicial district in the state. That is why the commissioners, not Mr. Brauchler, made the decision to incrementally increase his compensation over the four years of his term beginning with $130,000 his first year," Sharpe said in an email.
The head of the state's district attorneys' council told 9NEWS that he heard the reason was to keep the pay competitive for future DAs.
We also asked Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Jackson if Brauchler's pay came with annual increases to keep the job competitive for future DAs, which Brauchler and Sharpe both said, but in an email, Jackson said, "I certainly don't have any recollection of raising it for the reason you suggest! I, for one, would have never supported such a suggestion. Not sure where you heard it, but it sound (sic) like a rumor, not true."
After Brauchler won reelection in 2016, he negotiated a new pay scale:
- 2017: $195,000
- 2018: $200,000
- 2019: $205,000
- 2020: $210,000
"One term later, I went back to them and said, 'I still want to be the lowest paid District Attorney in the metro area, if not bigger than that' -- even though we had the biggest jurisdiction -- 'but I do think I'm worth more than what I got paid in the first term, just because of the experience and the performance,'" said Brauchler.
"When you tell the story, do you think you're giving the impression that you currently make the lowest amount a DA can make?" asked Zelinger.
"Not at all. In fact, I always tell the story from the standpoint of -- before I got sworn in and after I got elected -- I went to the County Commissioners and asked them to make me the lowest paid DA in the state, and they did," said Brauchler.
He also ends his stories by joking that if you're going to ask for a pay cut, be sure to consult your spouse. He said he asked for the low pay without talking to his wife.
Brauchler, who is currently at $195,000 salary, is seeking the Governor's job which only pays $90,000.
"When I said I was interested in running for Governor, one of her early questions was, 'how much does the Governor make?' And when I told her, she said, 'that's outrageous,'" said Brauchler.
His claim that he asked to be the lowest paid DA in the state is true. He just leaves out the part where his pay went up each year, including a bigger bump when he negotiated his second term salary.