Steamboat Springs A Utah car accident involving Undersheriff David Bustos likely will spur a meeting between county officials regarding the Sheriff's Office policy on employees using county vehicles for personal use.
Bustos was driving his county-owned 2004 Dodge Ram on May 24 in Vernal, Utah, to pick up a new office desk when he clipped another driver at a four-way stop. No injuries were reported, and Bustos paid for the stop sign violation he was issued. The accident caused about $1,100 worth of damage to Bustos' vehicle.
"We were both fighting for the same space in an intersection," he said. "It was just a little fender-bender. It's that simple."
According to the accident report, Bustos thought he was at a four-way stop. After stopping his vehicle, he turned into oncoming traffic. His pickup hit a purple van that was proceeding legally through the intersection, spinning it 180 degrees.
Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall said Thursday from a County Sheriffs of Colorado conference in Cortez that he has revamped the existing policy on county vehicle use to allow his employees to use them personally "because of the nature of the job."
However, Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said the Sheriff's Office is required to follow the county's motor pool policy, which states "county vehicles are not to be used for personal business or pleasure."
"It's news to us that he thinks that way," Stahoviak said Thursday. "It's kind of a confusing thing with the Sheriff's Office because some policies are specific to the Sheriff's Office and there are some that are not. It has been our understanding, and it was with the previous sheriff, that they fell under the county's personnel policy, which includes the motor pool policy."
"This is a battle that has been fought in Colorado for a long time," he said. "But the fight is over. Sheriff's Office employees are employees of the Sheriff's Office, not the county."
Wall said that, as an elected sheriff, he has the ability, by law, to revamp and curtail office policies to fall in line with his philosophical views.
"If there is a conflict with the county and the Sheriff's Office, the Sheriff's Office policy takes precedent," he said.
Stahoviak said Wall's position may require further explanation.
"This may prompt a conversation for us to gain a better understanding of how he thinks this will work," she said.
Wall doesn't think a meeting is necessary.
"However, I'm always happy to talk to anybody about anything," he said.
Wall contends allowing his employees to use their vehicles at all times is a greater benefit to the community because law enforcement officers are more "visible and able to respond to emergencies."
"We are on call 24/7. We are always responsible for what's going on, whether it's in this county or in the state," he said. "Our people are always out there with a law enforcement presence, which doesn't cost anything."
Wall said his employees understand they could be called to an emergency anytime, whether or not they are on duty.