Steamboat Springs The Routt County Sheriff's Office is ending a six-year relationship with a state law enforcement association because the organization has targeted county residents through telephone solicitation.
Sheriff John Warner said he no longer wants his office to be a member of the Colorado Law Enforcement Officers' Association because he claims misleading telephone calls have been made to Routt County residents asking for money. The sheriff also claims the telephone solicitation is not benefiting the association.
Warner said he found out earlier this week from a local resident that the group is trying to raise money from county residents by saying the association has given money to the Hayden DARE program.
"They are lying," Warner said. "They do not give money to the Hayden DARE program. They have not given money to Routt County for anything."
Warner said he is going to send the association a letter notifying the organization that his office no longer wishes to be a member.
Warner said he also will ask the association to reimburse his office for the dues that were paid.
To be a member of the association for 2002, the Sheriff's Office paid $555, which is $15 for 37 deputies.
Las Animas Police Chief Gerry Oyen, who is the president of the association, was surprised by Warner's decision.
Oyen said the group raises money two ways. One is through dues, and the second is through telephone solicitation.
"I don't know what his problem is," Oyen said. "Telephone solicitation is what we do to get money for our programs. We have always done that.
"If he does not want to participate, that is his option."
Warner said he cannot support an organization that raises money by calling county residents.
Last winter, Denver-based Public Safety Promotions targeted Routt County.
That company has been hired by the association to do the telephone solicitation.
"I am very concerned with any type of telephone solicitation," Warner said. "The Better Business Bureau and I agree telephone solicitation is not an acceptable practice."
In a December letter, Warner warned Oyen that if telephone calls continued to Routt County residents, he would reconsider his support for the association.
When a resident notified Warner Tuesday morning that she received a telephone call soliciting funds for the association, Warner decided he'd had enough.
"I'm infuriated," Warner said. "Especially after I told them to discontinue calling this county. I'm not going to tolerate it.
"These calls infringe on a person's right to privacy."
Oyen said the association does not control where Public Safety Promotions will call in efforts to raise money.
Warner also claims the association has not benefited from the telephone solicitation.
Warner claims for every $1 Public Safety Promotions pulls in, 17 cents goes to the association.
Oyen said the numbers are wrong.
"That is not even close," Oyen said. "I don't know where he is getting his numbers from."
However, Oyen could not provide the specific amount the association receives from Public Safety Promotions.
Warner said he got the numbers from Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar's office.
Oyen said it will be up to the association's 18-member board whether Warner's office will be reimbursed.
"I doubt seriously he will be reimbursed," Oyen said. "But it will be up to the board."
Warner said his office joined the association because it provides law enforcement agencies across the state with inexpensive training programs.
"Their training programs are cheaper than other organizations," he said.