Personnel files shed light

Records more extensive for Wiggins than Wall in sheriff race

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— Republican Routt County sheriff candidate Garrett Wiggins' personnel files generally describe him as a well-respected law enforcement officer who, at times, can be stubborn and easily frustrated.

After spending much of the past 27 years as a self-employed private investigator, the personnel files for Democratic sheriff candidate Gary Wall are much less extensive.

Both men granted the Steamboat Pilot & Today access to personnel files last week. The candidates have questioned one another's backgrounds and their qualifications for sheriff during a contentious race to replace longtime Sheriff John Warner, a Republican. Warner has not publicly endorsed either candidate.

Wiggins, a former Routt County Sheriff's Office deputy and current Steamboat Springs Police Department patrol officer, made his files from those agencies available Wednesday. His files from the Quincy (Fla.) Police Department, where he worked from 1986 to 1998, and from Swisher International, a cigar manufacturing company for whom he worked from 1990 to 1993, were not available.

However, longtime Quincy police Chief Gerald McSwain confirmed Wiggins' employment in his department and said Wiggins was "one of the best (officers) we had."

"He was an excellent employee," McSwain said. "Garrett left on good terms here. He was one of our brighter people. He played a role in helping revamp several of our departmental policies."

Wiggins' files at Steamboat Springs City Hall include several performance reviews conducted by his supervisors. Those reviews rate Wiggins' performance on a scale of one to five in areas including department values, investigative skills, work habits and equipment use.

In 2005, Wiggins received a score of 48 out of 65 on his annual review from the Steamboat Springs Police Department. Comments included, "very well liked," "not badge-heavy," "generally positive," and "most respected member of the division." The review also indicated Wiggins was "stubborn and can sometimes be an obstacle with supervisors."

The 2005 review included a section that indicated Wiggins was interested in a detective position with the department, which his supervisors recommended he "prepare for and continue to work on."

Wiggins eventually applied for a detective job, a process that included a written exam, an oral board and a physical agility test. Wiggins was not selected for the position, he said.

"Upward mobility is slow at the police department," Wiggins said. "But it is what it is."

Several reviews recommended that Wiggins have "a more positive attitude, even when frustrated."

A 1999 Steamboat Springs Police Department performance review suggested Wiggins "continue to improve on his self-initiated field activities and not get into the habit of being a slug." It also said he should be more "aggressive with DUI enforcement and arrests."

Wiggins was given a verbal warning from a sergeant in 1999 for missing two Department of Revenue hearings. Wiggins said the hearings are for police officers to testify why they took certain actions with residents and to justify those actions. Wiggins said he didn't show up to the hearings because he forgot about them.

The verbal warning was the only reprimand in Wiggins' files at the police department and Sheriff's Office.

A 2004 police department review said Wiggins was "fair" and received "nothing but praise from the citizens."

Wiggins' files at the Sheriff's Office, for whom he worked from 2000 to 2003, did not include any performance reviews because one was never completed, despite county policy that employees be reviewed annually.

Wiggins applied for the position of sergeant with the Sheriff's Office in 2003. He was not selected for the position despite being the No. 1 rated applicant, his files indicate.

Remarks on Wiggins' sergeant test included, "correct but not strong," "did not understand concept here," and "good attitude, took control."

Wall's files from the Vail Police Department, where he was a police chief from 1973 to 1979, were far less extensive than those available for Wiggins.

Wall received average to above-average marks on his 1976 performance review with the Vail Police Department, and he was praised for building strong relationships with the Vail community and "having high standards" as a police chief. The 1976 performance review was the only review included in Wall's file.

Wall's file also included suggestions such as, "better day-to-day supervision and planning needed," and "could be more actively and personally involved."

Wall's personnel files from the Aspen Police Department, where he worked from 1967 to 1973, were purged years ago, Aspen officials said.

Wall has spent much of the past 25 years as a self-employed private investigator.

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