Our View: End county turf war

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We can't help but be a little mystified by Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall's insistence on skirmishing with the Board of Commissioners about such innocuous issues as motor pool policies.

Wall retained outside legal representation this month to draft a memo to the commissioners saying he would not acquiesce to their request for details on his departmental policies.

It doesn't sound like a big deal to us. However, Wall and his attorney make the case that to respond to a letter from the commissioners would undermine not only his authority, but that of other sheriffs around Colorado.

We're not so naÃive that we don't recognize a turf war when we see one. The sheriff is standing firm and resisting any actions on the part of the commissioners that remotely suggest they have power over him. Wall's attorneys drafted an eight-page letter setting out case law relating to the separation of powers between the county and the sheriff.

We would suggest that even if he's standing on legal high ground, the sheriff, his department and his constituents would be better served by a less adversarial relationship between the board of commissioners and the highest ranking law enforcement officer in the county.

The squabble goes back to earlier this summer, when the commissioners expressed surprise that Wall was allowing his employees to use their patrol vehicles for personal use. The sheriff contends that keeping his deputies in their cars bolsters public safety and extends the reach of patrols across the county. He makes a point. However, the county commissioners noted that his policy was inconsistent with those of the county motor pool, which provides his vehicles.

It came as no surprise when the commissioners sought clarification. They asked county attorney John Merrill to send the sheriff a letter asking him to go over a list of 18 county policies and indicate whether he accepts those policies, or alternately, to provide his own policies.

The commissioners might not have elicited such a defensive response from Wall had the memo not come from Merrill. However, the request for information doesn't appear so threatening to us.

We lack the expertise of Wall's attorney, Ralph A. Cantafio. Still, we question his assertion that "the responsibility of the Board of County Commissioners as to the Sheriff's Office begins and ends with the budgeting of money."

Unless we're badly mistaken, the Sheriff's Office depends on the commissioners to shop for benefits for its employees and produce their payroll checks in a timely fashion, among other things.

We expect Wall to make law enforcement decisions without interference by the commissioners. But we don't see how his position with the county is advancing law enforcement-related objectives.

Wall's stance is ultimately perplexing because he is on the record saying he fully intends to publish his written policies for the Sheriff's Office at www.co.rout.co.us/sheriff. If that's the case, why not respond to the commissioners and "get on with the business of public safety in Routt County," as Wall put it this week?

Comments

Ms_E_Bronte 7 years, 1 month ago

If not the County Commissioners, who is the higher authority Wall is supposed to answer to? Numerous individuals (presumably taxpayers) have tried to contact him through his "open door" policy, to no avail. So, what is going on? We can understand he doesn't have to discuss actual police matters (investigations, etc.) with John Q. Public or the County Commissioners, but doesn't he have any form of fidiciary reporting responsibilities to the public or the Commissioners? Something just isn't right here. Could someone please clarify this?

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id04sp 7 years, 1 month ago

Nancy Stahovik is a staunch Republican. She donates money to the election committees. It's a matter of public record on the Colorado Secretary of State website, as posted by someone else in another thread. I looked it up for myself.

The real question is, would she be doing this if Ray Birch had won the election?

This whole thing is political. Let's get over it.

If Stahovik wants to run the sheriff's department, let her get POST certified and run against Wall in the next election.

There is nothing in the state law that requires a sheriff to answer to the County Commissioners. He only has to do the best with the money they give him, and if it's not enough, then THEY have to answer for the erosion of services.

If the County had not spent $18,000,000 on the injustice center and was not getting ready for a $3.5 million rehab of the "unsuitable" old courthouse, there would be lots of money for police services.

People are arguing over things that would cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, at most. This is nothing compared to the millions wasted on unnecessary construction costs by this County Commission.

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CoJustice 7 years, 1 month ago

Ms_E_Bronte: Your interest is honest and sincere. The community is asking the same questions. The County Commissioners represent the citizens of Routt County, they are requesting information on behalf of the community, and the County's best interest.

Don't be fooled by id's deceptive conspiracy theories, it has nothing to do with accountability to the Commissioners, its not even the same issue.

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Ms_E_Bronte 7 years, 1 month ago

CoJustice: Thank you for your response. It seems that Mr. Wall just isn't being responsive to anyone's questions and it's starting to alarm a lot of us. Politics, lawyers, etc. aside, we as taxpayers need to know exactly where he's coming from...if he even knows. I understand he has taken on quite a task, but wouldn't communicating with the Commissioners be better than trying to shut the doors? What is Wall afraid of? And, in response to some of id's points, aren't the other two County Commissioners Democrats? If I'm not mistaken, they have voiced some of the same concerns as Ms. Stahoviak.

What do Mr. Wall's concerns about "other Sheriff's in Colorado," have to do with Routt County and his accountability to our Commissioners? Again, something just doesn't fit in the overall picture. Maybe I'm missing something somewhere.

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id04sp 7 years, 1 month ago

B.S.

The text of the article says it all. The county's oversight ends with the budget. Period. They don't come up with the money, they don't get police protection.

Also, it's not necessary for "conspirators" to actually communicate with each other to carry out a conspiracy. It's only necessary that they act with a common intent. Look it up.

This is all political. When did anybody ever ask John Warner to account for his policies? Why did nobody ever question the contributions to GRAMNET when GRAMENT wasn't getting much in the way of results.

Look at the names. Find the affiliations. Connect the dots. It gets easier with every new fact you find, because almost every new fact will lead you to something else.

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CoJustice 7 years, 1 month ago

Many people can look at this and come up with a conclusions to connect the dots. By your invitation I'll tell you what I see. Attorneys that supported Gary Wall through services and election, are now being supported by Gary Wall, kind of a quo pro. But rather than try an speculate, why don't you just come out and say it.

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JQPUBLIC 7 years, 1 month ago

How would responding to the letter from the commissioners concerning policy undermine anything, especially "other sheriffs around Colorado"? What gives Wall immunity from accountability? If it is so important to keep the SO's policies from the county commissioners that Wall had to hire an attorney, there must be something seriously shady going on. Is Wall going to request extra money in his budget to pay for the attorney that advises him on ways to keep the public and the commissioners in the dark? The question was asked "would she be doing this if Ray Birch had won the election?"... had he decided he was an entity of his own and not part of the county... you bet she would, and by the way, she isn't the only commissioner, there are two democrats also. id04... If Stahoviak wants to run against Wall in the next election why does she have to be POST certified, double standards?

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Ms_E_Bronte 7 years, 1 month ago

I have another question: has Wall been POST certified yet? If not, can he be referred to as the "highest ranking LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER in the County"? Also, if he's not POST certified by now, why not? Is he instead the "administrator" of the RCSO, instead of actually being the Sheriff? I understand he has a year to become POST certified...just puzzled about why he hasn't fulfilled this obligation sooner. Does anyone have any thoughts/answers for this one?

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id04sp 7 years, 1 month ago

JQ,

She doesn't. If she wants to be elected by her party, however, she'd better be. That seems to be the biggest issue with Wall's Republican detractors.

Okay, we are simply going to disagree on a lot of this. The only people I had contact with in the RCSO were Warner's picks. If Ray Birch was one of Warner's deputies, that makes me distrust him. It's as simple as that.

When did the commissioners ever write such a letter to Warner?

Please show examples where this has happened in other counties.

If this is the regular way of doing business in other counties, let's hear about it.

Also, please locate and post references to Colorado statutes which give the county commissioners jurisdiction to review the actions of the sheriff.

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Bryan Rickman 7 years, 1 month ago

Since the County Coroner is the only person who can arrest the sheriff, I think he may be the highest ranking law enforcement officer in the county.

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another_local 7 years, 1 month ago

It does not seem to me that anyone is saying that the sheriff, whoever holds the office, is not accontable to anyone. The question is whether the county commissioners are where that accountability lies.

Isn't this a question of fact and one which the newpaper is well positioned to research and answer? How about a little public service on this one editor? What does the the statute say? The county is an extension of the state government. Aside from the merits of a good working environment, what does the law creating the structure have to say about where the sheriff owes accountability?

If that accountability does not lie with the commissioners, they need to rephrase the request and perhaps not deliver it from the county attorney and the sheriff should respond in the interest of the community while maintaining appropriate independance. If the accountability does lie with the commissioners, the sheriff needs to get with the program and meet his obligations.

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sickofitall 7 years, 1 month ago

lol, the PILOT has it's own attorneys to stonewall any criticism of what they write regardless if it affects others. Even if what they write is wrong!! Hypocrites!

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CoJustice 7 years, 1 month ago

Interesting story, Miami-Dade County Commissioners were sick of the elected Sheriffs position and dissolved it (by way of the people), for the people, by vote. Miami-Dade County is one of the only few in the nation whose law-enforcement agencies have an appointed police director. Their theory, you get a much more capable person who is not just somebody who is popular. Broward County commissioners are considering the same change.

Imagine that, Sheriffs position could be a thing of the past. . . . . . . never say never. Story comments of "Wall and his attorney make the case that to respond to a letter from the commissioners would undermine not only his authority, but that of other sheriffs around Colorado"::..This could disassociate him from other professional Sheriffs office:..Who does he think hes representing? Does he have permission to speak for other sheriffs office?

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whyquestion 7 years, 1 month ago

when will the sheriff make good on all the things he has said he'd DO???like post his policys on the RCSO WEB SITE?????his political stratergy is the same as what was used in OC in the last few years?CREATE HAVOC PAY OFF YOUR SUPPORTERS WITH TAXPAYERS $$$$$$$$'s PROVDE MINIMUM SERVICES ETC??????thank goodness DEFICIT $$$$$$$$$/CARGO gone and the town can now rectify the situation????

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whyquestion 7 years, 1 month ago

9/21/2007 rcso donated DARE vehicle to moffat county sheriff to be used for their dare program read story on craigdailypress.com web site!!!!!!glad to see someone cares about trying to protect kids by educating them about these hazzards!!!!

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portagetheyampa 7 years, 1 month ago

Wall seems to be much more interested in power for himself than he is in providing good law enforcement to the citizens of Routt County.

The commissioners have a fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers and they seem to be ligitimately questioning Wall's autocratic policies.

Nancy Stahoviak has been a fair commissioner for the years she has been on the Board. To suggest she has political motivations when she is in the last of her term is rather "political" in itself.

I'm thinking we are less safe in Routt County with Wall and all his power mongering.

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CoJustice 7 years, 1 month ago

I think an inquiry to the other Sheriffs Department that he claims to be representing may be in order. I don't think that the citizens of Routt County should have to pay for a legal opinion for other Sheriff's Departments in regards to Wall's attorney's comments "undermine not only his authority, but that of other sheriffs around Colorado"::. they can contribute to the interpretation instead of the citizens of the County.

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id04sp 7 years, 1 month ago

If one sheriff does what the comission wants, then it sets a precedent. Wall doesn't have to be in cahoots with any other sheriff's departments around the state to know that whatever one does, others will be expected to do.

My guess is that none of the other counties have tried such meddling.

Does anybody in their right mind actually think that having a DARE vehicle on the street will help keep kids off drugs? I saw a couple of kids at a high school football game transact a pot sale within 5 feet of two police officers. The kids simply waited until the cops' backs were turned.

Don't forget, we live in a county where a judge tried to override federal law (the Don Nord case) regarding use and possession of drugs. What kind of example does that set for kids?

The Nancy Stahoviak comments (she's not political) don't mean much, because for most of her tenure, another Republican was the sheriff. Why did she wait until now to complain?

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation posts statistics by agency for reported crimes and arrests in each jurisdiction. Let's see how 2007 comes out for Routt County, and then take action if things have gotten worse.

I think we'll find that crime is down because there's a new sheriff in the county who has replaced most of the sworn officers. I'll leave it at that.

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 1 month ago

Crime isn't down due to Wall! LOL! He can't even make an arrest without being POST certified. Look at the Funny Pages- RCSO is mentioned once to every 4-5 SSPD arrests. There are just as many people outside city limits as there are inside. Only people in the city commit crimes? Doubt that! In fact, all the meth labs reported in the last decade...how many were city; how many were county, eh?

As for the DARE vehicle, it was a nice gesture, but I'm betting Wall got rid of it to not remind him of the past instead of being a nice guy.

BTW, ID- How's Wall handling your past complaints? Any progress?

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id04sp 7 years, 1 month ago

Kielbasa,

Go to the CBI website and look up the stats for Routt County and Steamboat Springs in 2006. You see exactly the same pattern.

I recently compared the drug arrests reported in "The Record" from RCSO search term hits for this year to last year, and they're not out of line.

Let's wait until the 2007 stats are in, and then compare them to the surrounding counties. You should look at the 2006 for comparison right now, and search "the Record" yourself for this year's data.

Wall has done something important to break up the "old boy" network in Routt County. The "old boys" are mostly gone.

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CoJustice 7 years, 1 month ago

Id: In regards to stats, I am not a mathematic by any means but you may be able to help me figure this formula out.

If you use your service vehicle to be "on call available"

1) How long would it take you to respond from a Colorado Rockies game? 2) Who would you actually be protecting?

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CoJustice 7 years ago

ido4: I never received an answer from my question last month, Whats new in Wally World?

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justathought 7 years ago

Boy, this fits right in now. Maybe now is time to hear Mr. Wall's policies on the motor pool or how his position with the county is advancing law enforcement-related objectives, as stated in the article.

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years ago

ID- I wonder what the 2007 statistics will say now. Will it show that Wall's department was the perpetrator more often than the department called? LOL!

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CoJustice 7 years ago

justathought: You are the only one that got it. We saw this coming some time ago.

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