Updated below with comments from Marroney and Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey’s office.
Whether it’s Stan Garnett or incumbent John Suthers, the winner of the Attorney General’s race will be the top law enforcement officer in the state—but when he moves into his agency’s new digs at the sprawling $258 million Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center once construction is completed in 2013, his stature won’t be reflected in his location within the building. Although the office was originally planned to be in the crowning spot on the very top floors of the new complex, the state Attorney General will not be the king of that particular hill.
The top two floors with the best views of the city are now slated to be occupied not by an elected official, but by a bureaucrat—the very bureaucrat, in fact, in charge of deciding where in the building tenants would be located.
“I know the Attorney General’s Office feels like they’re being short-changed because they got moved from the top of the building,” said Bill Mosher, the managing director of real estate developer Trammell Crow, and spokesman for the project that officially broke ground Monday morning. “Our client is the State Court Administrator and if they tell us they’re going on the 11th and 12th floors, that’s what we do.”
The state court administrator, former Pueblo District Judge Jerry Marroney, supervises the Colorado Judicial Branch, which is divided into 22 districts with 304 judgeships and some 3,600 employees. He oversees the Branch budget and manages personnel, payroll and myriad fiscal duties. And according to Mosher, Marroney called the shots on where the various agencies would be located within the new building once it’s completed.
The Judicial Center is being constructed on the lot between 13th and 14th avenues and Lincoln and Broadway, and will be the 600,000-square-foot home to seven different judicial agencies that are currently scattered around downtown in 10 different locations.
The state court administrator wasn’t always on the pinnacle of what is now planned to be a 12-story building.
Soon after the project was approved by the General Assembly in 2006, preliminary plans included as part of a feasibility study showed the complex being composed of two main structures: a five-story courthouse building that would contain the Colorado Supreme Court, the Colorado Court of Appeals, judicial chambers and attorneys offices; and a 10-story office building for the public defender’s office, the office of alternate defense council, the office of attorney regulation, and the AG’s office.
In those original plans, Mosher said, the state court administrator was to be located in the smaller court building. The AG’s office was on the top of the stack of offices in the high-rise.
But the plans were changed more than a year ago, he said. To accommodate the soaring ceilings of the courthouse design and stay in compliance with height restrictions on the north end of the property where the courthouse is to be located, the office building was made taller and State Court Administrator’s Office was relocated.
“The State Court Administrator’s office … moved themselves to the top floor of the office building,” Mosher said. “It’s their building and they’re paying for it (through court fees and lease agreements), so they put themselves on top.”
According to Mosher, some within the Attorney General’s Office felt slighted by the change, even though their location within the building hasn’t changed. But if there are any lingering bad feelings, no one’s talking about it.
“We’re not going to comment on where we are placed in the new building,” Attorney General John Suthers’ spokesman Mike Saccone wrote in an email Friday. “You will need to talk to the folks at Judicial if you want more information about why specific entities are located where they are in the new building.”
Marroney spokesman Rob McCallum said Marroney was unavailable to comment before Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony and referred all questions to Mosher.
“Whatever Mr. Mosher told you, I will agree with regardless of you telling me or not (what Mosher discussed),” McCallum said. When asked if Marroney would be available to comment after work hours or over the weekend, McCallum said, “He’s going to tell you to call Mr. Mosher.”
In terms of a territorial dust-up, it’s a minor one compared to what Mosher has seen in the past on other projects in downtown Denver. His company also constructed the Wellington Webb Municipal Building at 201. W. Colfax Ave., and had to contend with 45 different agencies all vying for the best views, the best offices and the best access for their employees. And they also built the Denver Post building next door and had to accommodate two competing newspapers in the same facility.
“They didn’t even want to be in the same town, much less be in the same building,” Mosher recalled.
Compared to that experience, he said, “This group’s been fabulous to work with.”
Update: State Court Administrator Jerry Marroney, when contacted Monday at the groundbreaking ceremony, said that although he signed off on the location of his office and agrees that it belongs on top of the new Ralph L. Carr Justice Center, the decision to put his agency above the Attorney General’s wasn’t his—he said Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey made the call.
“The Chief Justice made the decision,” Marroney said, adding that it was based on the fact that his office is appointed by and represents the Supreme Court. “It’s not about me.”
Rob McCallum, State Court Administrator spokesman, replied to a phone message on behalf of Mullarkey, who confirmed that the decision was hers.
The news provides yet another wrinkle of intrigue—Attorney General John Suthers was quoted in a Business Week blog in January saying that he would vote against retaining Mullarkey and two other Supreme Court justices in November. Mullarkey pre-empted such a vote by announcing her resignation earlier this year; she’d served on the Supreme Court since 1987.
(The Business Week blog is offline, but read an analysis and some quotes from it on this Clear the Bench Colorado blog.)
“I think (the Attorney General’s office) thought it was political,” Marroney said. “They were accusing the Chief Justice of making the decision because of Suthers’ comments, but if you look back at the drawings, this thing was (planned out) like a year before Suthers ever made those statements. … It has nothing to do with politics.”
“It was not my call,” he said of his involvement in getting the top floors of the new building, which is slated for completion in 2013. “(Mullarkey’s) my boss. And I don’t think she’s wrong.”
Suthers’ office, in an e-mail last week, declined to comment about the Attorney General’s location within the building.