Steamboat Springs Despite being asked to focus on agricultural issues at a political forum Saturday night, one candidate thought there was a more pressing issue that needed to be addressed.
Democratic Routt County sheriff's candidate Gary Wall immediately challenged his opponent during a five-minute opening statement at the Northwest Colorado Political Agricultural Forum hosted by the Community Agriculture Alliance, Routt County CattleWomen and the Routt County Cattlemen.
"I didn't want to go down this road but I felt because of the negativity that my opponent and his supporters have spread about me, I just felt that I need to respond to that," Wall told the crowd of about 50 people.
Wall accused Republican sheriff's candidate Garrett Wiggins of not being honest or open about his work history as a manager at a tobacco company.
"I challenge you to sign a release that will allow this company to release your personnel records so that we can find out really what you did at that company and the real reason why you left," said Wall, who has not been a police officer since leaving the Vail Police Department's chief position in 1979.
Wall also questioned Wiggins' performance as a law enforcement officer, and in Wall's words, Wiggins has been "farmed out to GRAMNET," or the Greater Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team. Wiggins is currently a police officer and narcotics investigator for the Steamboat Springs Police Department and before that, he worked as a patrol deputy for the sheriff's office.
"Please stand up Mr. Wiggins and release those documents," Wall said. "Let the people know the real you instead of what you say you are. Don't hide behind some excuse that administrator told you not to release the documents. They're your documents and you are free to release them."
Wiggins then started his opening statement, saying it was a hard act to follow and he would have to borrow some words used by House District 57 incumbent Al White during a forum last Tuesday.
"There are things called white lies, there are things called bald face lies and there are things called damn lies and that is just what he has conveyed to all of you guys," Wiggins said. "I'm going to stay to the high road on this whole thing. I'm going to run on my own merits. I'm not going to run on damming Gary Wall."
Wiggins said he was advised by supervisors not to release his personnel records. Information in personnel files could compromise his duties as a narcotics investigator and could endanger his family, Wiggins said.
Wiggins did offer a compromise to Wall's demands.
"Anybody that wants to look at my personnel record, I will personally escort you to see it," Wiggins said.
Wiggins also said he is the only candidate that has been a police officer in the past 21 years. He said if Wall were elected, he would likely have to spend the first several months as sheriff getting POST (Peace Officer Standards in Training) certified, and there were no guarantees he would get the certification. Wall was not concerned and offered a snide response.
"Is passing the test for POST certification anything like passing the test for sergeant, which you can't pass?" Wall asked.
The sheriff's candidates did address some questions from audience members pertaining to issues affecting the rural community, which included a question about the amount of time deputies patrol rural roads.
"We should spend a lot more times on the roads where people haven't seen a car in months or maybe years," Wiggins said.
Wall said deputy priorities needed to be changed and shifted to the rural areas.
"There is going to be more time for that because they're not going to be on (U.S. Highway) 40, they're not going to be on Rabbit Ear's Pass, and they're not going to be in Steamboat Springs," Wall said.
Audience member Bill Gay made it a point to express his gratitude to the commissioner candidates who spoke after the sheriff's candidates.
"Thank you for focusing on the issues and being kind to each other," he said.