Steamboat Springs Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall announced Friday that he would not respond to the Routt County Board of Commissioners' request to clarify his policies, saying that to betray his personal philosophies would "sacrifice the integrity of the Sheriff's Office."
"By responding to the attachment to the letter by initialing each county policy as you requested, I believe I would be allowing the County Commissioners to usurp my authority as Sheriff and involve themselves in the affairs of the Sheriff's Office in an impermissible manner," Wall wrote in a Sept. 6 letter to the commissioners. "This is something I cannot allow, not only for all of the employees of the (Sheriff's Office), but also to maintain the integrity of all other Sheriff's Offices throughout Colorado."
County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said Saturday from her home in Oak Creek that she could not comment on Wall's letter because she had not seen it.
County commissioners Doug Monger and Diane Mitsch Bush as well as County Manager Tom Sullivan were not in the office Friday when Wall sent them a copy of his letter.
"At this point, we really need to read what he's saying and look at the reasons he presents in his response," Stahoviak said. "I don't have a clue how we'll proceed. I don't think anyone has had a chance to read it."
Wall's most recent letter comes on the heels of a two-month policy discussion amongst Wall and the commissioners. In late July, the commissioners and county attorney John Merrill sent Wall a letter asking him to initial 18 county policies regarding the Sheriff's Office, stating whether he accepts the policy or whether he has his own. The letter also asks Wall to provide policies he is changing or implementing at the Sheriff's Office that differ from current county policies.
After receiving Merrill's "legal memo," Wall said he was forced to acquire his own legal counsel to represent him in the matter.
Wall hired attorneys with Ralph A. Cantafio, P.C., to represent him.
On Wall's behalf, Cantafio and attorney Mark Fischer prepared an eight-page document discussing the "separation of powers issue" between the county and the sheriff. The memo states that the "real issue here is the relative powers" of the county and the sheriff. The memo indicates that the county's role is solely to fund the Sheriff's Office's annual budget, and provides several other Colorado cases backing the assertion.
"One issue is clear, the responsibility of the Board of County Commissioners as to the Sheriff's Office begins and ends with the budgeting of money," the memo states.
Wall expressed concern that he would be penalized through the budget process for refusing to compromise his situation.
"I hope that none of this would result in a punitive attitude by the Routt County Commissioners as we go through the budgetary process," Wall's letter states. "I would expect that any disagreement between the County Commissioners and my office be handled in such a way not to put the undersheriff, deputy sheriffs, citizens of Routt County and visitors to our county in any peril because of not being adequately funded to uphold the statutory responsibilities of this" office.
Another issue the board has brought to Wall's attention during the policy discussions is liability. The board contends that the county is liable for the Sheriff's Office employees. However, Wall disagrees.
Wall asserts that the county's concerns about liability are not the county's, but his own.
He also asserts that by conforming to the county's requests, he would be giving the county jurisdiction, which he won't do.
"If they are expecting me to respond to and initial those policies, I clearly am not going to do that," he said Friday. "I believe I was elected to protect the integrity of the Sheriff's Office. It would be inappropriate to assign any jurisdiction to the County Commissioners or any other body. I will not do that."
Wall's letter also expresses concern that the board has never asked other "elected officials to engage in similar activities involving county policy."
Wall said it is his "full intent to publish written policies" of the Sheriff's Office and make them available on the Sheriff's Office Web site, www.co.routt.co.us/sheriff.
Wall said he did not know what to expect from the county in response to his letter.
"I want to move on and get on with the business of public safety in Routt County," he said.
Read Wall's letter