Steamboat Springs The message from Routt County Sheriff John Warner to the town of Oak Creek was clear: Play by the rules or be cut off.
When Oak Creek Mayor Cargo Rodeman decided to amend a four-person list of police chief candidates to include two additional applicants, Warner was furious.
A panel of three law enforcement professionals Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta, Warner and J.D. Hayes, director of public safety in Steamboat Springs agreed to review nine applications for Oak Creek's vacant police chief position. They narrowed the list down to four men and turned the list over to Rodeman Oct. 14.
Almost immediately one candidate who did not make the cut drove to Oak Creek and confronted Rodeman with a thick stack of papers regarding his past and threatened a possible lawsuit if he was not given a chance, Rodeman said.
Another candidate who did not make the cut protested to Town Clerk Nancy Crawford, citing a personal difference with a member of the sheriff's staff as the reason he was not chosen.
"Accusations are cheap," Rodeman said. She decided to give both men a chance.
She called Warner Oct. 21 to explain her decision.
"At the time, I said, 'No. Please don't do this,'" Warner said. "You don't do that. It's like changing the rules at halftime."
At Thursday's Oak Creek Town Board meeting, the agenda announced a status report concerning the police chief search and a list of six candidates to be interviewed for the position.
When an Oak Creek resident called Warner that afternoon to ask why two extra names were on the list, Warner sent a message to the board through trustee Bill Paxton.
"Warner called me at 5 p.m. and said that if the two extra applicants are interviewed, he is pulling out of Oak Creek," Paxton said at the meeting.
Warner threatened to end a contract for police services to the town of Oak Creek and respond only to emergencies. Currently, sheriff's deputies patrol the town and provide office time two days a week.
According to Colorado state statute, the Sheriff's Office would be required only to "keep the peace" in Oak Creek, Warner said in an interview Friday morning.
Warner also promised he would not conduct a background check of the final candidate if the board interviewed either of the extra candidates.
"What will happen if they hire one of these candidates that we thought were unsuitable and in six months they come back to ask for our help?" Warner said. "We will say not just say no, but hell no.
"And what happens when the other three candidates (that did not make the cut) find out? Then we can be sued by those men. That is why we agreed to a process in the first place," Warner said.
After hearing Paxton's announcement at the board meeting, Rodeman scratched the name of the man who threatened a lawsuit.
"I have a legal friend looking at his papers right now," she said. "If a review of those papers proves that he is innocent, I will take that information to the sheriff."
But the list still included one man not officially recommended by the review panel.
Rodeman called a recess to telephone Warner at home.
"She left me a voice mail that said, '(One of the applicants) should be interviewed because Nancy Crawford knows him and thinks he should be interviewed.'" Warner said. The applicant in question is a former Oak Creek resident.
"I didn't think we were obligated to hire one of their recommendations," trustee John Crawford said. "We took their advice, but we also added one."
Rodeman conceded to eliminate the extra candidates from the interview list.
"I don't want to cancel any contracts," she said. "Whether we interview (the former Oak Creek man) will not be determined until I talk to John."
"If they stick with the four recommended candidates," Werner said, "I will live up to my word and send investigators to do a background check on the final candidate and we will continue to provide law enforcement services to Oak Creek."
Interviews are scheduled for Thursday. The interview panel will include members of the town board, reserve officer Eileen Rossi and Assistant Police Chief Art Fiebing from Steamboat.