BRIGHTON, Colo. (CBS4) – Charles Tedesco, a candidate for Adams County Commissioner, admits he lied about his criminal record and tried to mislead during an on-camera interview with CBS4 earlier this month.
“I don’t know why I did it,” Tedesco later said. “I was embarrassed.”
CBS4 examined candidates criminal records and found that Tedesco, a Democrat, had been arrested twice for drunk driving. However the arrests took place under a different name. He used to be named Charles Steven Hillsberry, the name given to him when he was adopted as a young child. He legally changed his name to his birth name — Charles Tedesco — in 2000 saying he did not want to keep his adopted last name.
But before he changed his name, in 1989, the Northglenn Police Department arrested Hillsberry (Tedesco), noting that his blood alcohol level registered .153. He later pleaded guilty to driving while impaired. Then in 1993, he was again arrested for DUI, this time by Federal Heights police. He was sentenced to 15 days in jail and apparently served 9 days of the 15 day sentence.
But when CBS4 approached Tedesco at a recent candidate forum, he was asked if he had ever been arrested, jailed or had a criminal record.
“I visited the jail but I’ve never been arrested,” Tedesco responded. He went on to say he went on a tour of the Adams County Jail about a month earlier, but that was his only experience behind bars.
Tedesco was again asked if he had actually been arrested. “I was picked up but not sure if I was actually arrested, I was picked up absolutely,” he said.
“Was it serious?” he was asked.
“No nothing serious,” he responded. Tedesco went on to explain the only time law enforcement had picked him up was when he was 7 years old and “walked out of a store with something in my pocket I shouldn’t have.”
“Like shoplifting?” he was asked.
“But that’s the only time you’ve been arrested or in trouble with the law?” was the next question.
“Right,” he said.
“Shoplifting as a teen?”
“I was not a teen — seven years old. No I got picked up but didn’t say I got arrested,” said Tedesco.
As the interview continues, Tedesco was again asked to clarify.
“The only time you got picked up was as a 7 year old for shoplifting?” he is asked.
“Right — when I was seven years old,” he responds.
After eight minutes of prodding and repeated questions about arrests, Tedesco finally admitted to a single drunk driving arrest.
“I was picked up the day I got back from the military. I had partied and got picked up for DWAI so I did have that,” Tedesco concedes.
But even then, he still didn’t admit to what records obtained by CBS4 showed. A second DUI case four years later that landed him in jail.
“Any others?” he is asked.
“Nope, nope,” responded Tedesco.
Several minutes later, the candidate finally fessed up to the second DUI case that put him behind bars for nine days. “It was very eye opening, it changed my life,” he said.
A review of the other four candidates Colorado criminal records showed none had faced anything more serious than a speeding ticket.
Eric Sondermann, a political consultant, watched the entire interview and said Tedesco violated some basic rules of running for political office. “If you have bad news in your background, you put it out on your own — don’t have someone else put it out for you. It’s not the crime, it’s the coverup,” said Sondermann.
He said voters would likely overlook the DUI cases given how long ago they occurred.
“But when given the opportunity and confronted by you, he did not reek of integrity and reek of wanting to be forthcoming and take responsibility for it. It’s not what you look for in a politician, not what you look for in any politician.”
After watching the interview and Tedesco’s misleading answers, Sondermann said, “He just did not ooze the kind of integrity you would hope candidates ooze.”
The Adams County Commissioner’s job pays nearly $90,000 per year.
Following the interview, Tedesco apologized for his deceptive answers and said he was puzzled by his own actions, unsure why he did not answer questions about his past honestly. He told CBS4 he is “not proud” of the DUI cases.
He said prior to the campaign, he told officials with the Democratic party about the arrests and said if he was ever asked about them, he would answer honestly. He said he was disappointed he didn’t do what he had planned.
– Written by Brian Maass for CBSDenver.com