Hancock appoints Friednash to city attorney

The Colorado Statesman

The former state lawmaker who portrayed Michael Hancock’s runoff opponent during mayoral debate preparation this spring was named Denver’s city attorney on Wednesday.

Hancock said Doug Friednash, 49, a Greenberg Taurig attorney who specializes in complex litigation and government affairs, stood out among “unbelievable candidates” from throughout the country who applied for the top legal position in the new administration.

“He fulfills all my expectations,” Hancock said at a press conference at the City and County Building. “He has an astute political mind, paired with a strong background in Denver and in Colorado. Not to mention — and this was not part of the job qualifications — but he’s a Manual Thunderbolt.”

Members of Denver City Attorney Doug Friednash’s family gather in the Parr-Widener community room at the City and County Building for the announcement of his official appointment on Wednesday afternoon. From left, the new city attorney’s mother and father, Zelda and Gordon Friednash; his wife, Jennifer; her mother, Judith Bernstein; and his brother Mike.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“It’s nice to see not everyone’s at the IKEA opening today,” cracked Friednash, a prominent early supporter of Hancock’s mayoral run. He said his first order of business will be familiarizing himself with Denver’s budget and getting to know city officials and colleagues in the city attorney’s office.

Friednash, who was made a partner at Greenberg Taurig earlier this year, has handled some of the highest-profile elections litigation in the state in recent years. He led the charge against Amendment 54, which would have barred campaign contributions by government contractors, and was lead counsel on a lawsuit challenging Amendment 41, a set of strict ethical restrictions on government officials. He represented U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in the first complaint heard by the state’s Independent Ethics Commission, winning exoneration for the Aurora Republican on charges he crossed the line when he was secretary of state.

In addition, Friednash was legal counsel for U.S. Sen. Mark Udall’s 2008 campaign and this year he represented a slew of nonprofit civic groups against a campaign finance complaint filed by Clear the Bench over the groups’ publication of information about Colorado Supreme Court justices.

Friednash chuckled at the suggestion his impersonation of Hancock’s mayoral opponent Chris Romer for debate prep helped land him the job but acknowledged that there will be plenty of give-and-take with the new mayor.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, right, announces the appointment of former state Rep. Doug Friednash as city attorney at a press conference on Wednesday at the City and County Building.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“Mayor Hancock knows I’m the kind of person who’s going to tell him my view of the world,” Friednash said. “I’m sure we won’t always agree on everything, but we have a great amount of respect, and at the end of the day, he’s the mayor and whatever he decides, he’ll always have my support and respect. I think part of my role is to give him a different view of the world than he may have, and I think that’s one of the reasons he picked me, is I’ll be honest and forthright.”

Working in the Hancock administration will represent a reunion of sorts for Friednash and former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy, who was named the city’s chief financial officer in one of Hancock’s first cabinet hires. Kennedy, along with Friednash’s mother, Zelda, worked as his legislative aide when Friednash represented a southeast Denver district in the state House.

Friednash, a Democrat, served two terms in the General Assembly, first winning election in 1992. He co-chaired the Colorado Democratic Leadership Council and serves on the boards of the Denver Public Schools Foundation and the Aurora Economic Development Council.

Greenberg Taurig managing partner David Palmer said the firm is excited about Friednash’s appointment.
“Frankly, I encouraged him,” Palmer said. “I said, ‘You only get so many opportunities to provide public service in the course of a career.’”

In addition to Friednash and Kennedy, Hancock has filled four other cabinet posts since taking office last week. He appointed Tom Downey as director of Excise and Licenses, while keeping Fire Chief Eric Tade, Undersheriff Gary Wilson and Aviation Manager Kim Day from the previous administration. Shortly after announcing Friednash’s appointment, the mayor’s office said Manager of Public Safety Charles Garcia was stepping down and deputy Ashley Kilroy will serve as interim manager.

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com