A veteran El Paso County prosecutor whose family appears linked to more than $13,000 in spending to lift Michael Allen’s winning bid to be the Pikes Peak region’s next district attorney has been selected for a top job in Allen's administration.
Reggy Short will serve as a chief deputy district attorney, the office’s third-highest rank, when Allen’s term in office begins Jan. 12, Allen confirmed.
Short’s promotion is expected to boost his $111,400 salary to roughly $140,000, Allen told The Gazette. Short, now a senior deputy district attorney under term-limited DA Dan May, edged out several fellow senior deputies who also interviewed for the job, Allen said.
“Reggy was supremely qualified,” Allen said, calling him an office role model with an "impeccable" record and denying that financial support played a role in his promotion.
Short declined a request for an interview through a spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office.
He joined the office in 2009, is an Air Force Academy alumnus who graduated near the top of his class in law school and has handled many complex murder cases, Allen said. He emerged a "clear" choice after what Allen called a "rigorous interview process."
Short, his wife and her daughter — who also work in the DA’s Office — each made a maximum personal contribution of $400 to Allen’s campaign, while a trust in Short’s late mother’s name gave $12,000 to Citizens for Intelligence Driven Prosecution, an independent spending committee created to support Allen’s candidacy, records show.
The Citizens group spent $14,600 on television advertising in support of Allen, equivalent to more than 20% of the Allen campaign’s $64,000 purse.
Allen said he had no contact with the Citizens group, in keeping with state campaign laws requiring there be no coordination between independent groups and the candidates they support.
He said he had “no idea” that much of the group’s budget came from the Dorothy M. Short Trust, as campaign records show.
“When you told me about that just now is the first I heard about that," Allen said.
The contributions highlight the role of third-party campaign committees in district attorney races across the state, which allow contributors to sidestep individual contribution limits — so long as there is no cooperation with the candidate’s campaign.
Daniel Aschkinasi, a consultant who has represented several Democratic candidates for district attorney across the Front Range, likens independent expenditure committee support to “dark money” because of how difficult it can be to pin down who’s responsible.
“People are going above and beyond to conceal where the money is coming from and they’re doing it mostly because they don’t want to be pointed to for people to say, ‘Hey, why are you trying to influence the election?’ " Aschkinasi said.
Dorothy M. Short died in March in Colorado Springs, according to the El Paso County Coroner’s Office, two months before the first of three contributions in her name. Probate records aren’t public in Colorado, making it difficult to know who controls the trust.
Campaign records show that Citizens for Intelligence Driven Prosecution has clear ties to the Short family.
The group, which has since disbanded, lists Kevin Holcomb as its registered agent. Holcomb is engaged to Amber Holland, Short’s wife’s daughter, his Facebook profile shows. The group's headquarters is listed at the same address as couple's Fountain home. A message left at the group's registered phone number wasn't returned.
One of the group's spending reports documents the purchase of $8,500 in advertising underscoring the message that Mark Waller, Allen's opponent, “lacks integrity and experience.”
“One of the things that that group did that was incredibly disappointing was call into question my service in Iraq,” said Waller, an El Paso County commissioner and former state lawmaker. “I was very disappointed in that. I don’t remember exactly how they phrased it, but effectively they were saying I didn’t do the things I said I did.”
Waller, whose defeat in the Republican primary cleared the way for Allen’s uncontested election in November, also tied the Citizens group to a “negative” website called theRealMarkWaller.com. The website has since been taken down, and committee spending reports do not list online advertising among their expenditures.
“All that stuff has an impact. It’s hard to say to what degree or what level, but certainly it had an impact,” Waller said.
Waller raised questions about Short’s “financial interest” in the election’s outcome, and said his promotion by Allen “seems kind of fishy.”
Short's wife, Kimberly Adams-Short, works as the DA's office administrator making $104,000 a year, and Holland is paid $65,000 a year as the manager of victim compensation and diversion services, according to El Paso County payroll records.
Both were hired and promoted under Dan May, though Allen praised their performance and called them valuable employees.
Adams-Short and Holland declined requests for interviews through a spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office.
Allen said Short would not directly supervise his wife or her daughter, and that people Short supervises will not be required to report potential problems to Adams-Short.
Under Colorado’s strict limits for individual contributions, independent expenditure committees are one way for career prosecutors to help influence who their bosses will be, Aschkinasi said.
They also allow others to quietly contribute to their favored candidates, as in 2016 when a Texas holding company linked to Frank Azar, the Denver-area personal injury attorney, dumped $50,000 into a group supporting an unsuccessful bid by Michael Carrigan for Denver DA, according to the Colorado Independent.
The internal memo that announced Short’s promotion also reported that former chief deputy district attorney Jeffrey Lindsey and former spokeswoman Lee Richards “will not be retained” in Allen's administration. Allen declined to elaborate about their departures. Richards declined to comment, and attempts to reach Lindsey were unsuccessful.
Andrew Vaughan was the other senior deputy promoted to chief deputy district attorney, and Martha McKinney, currently a chief deputy, was named Allen's assistant district attorney, the memo said.