Sheriff Wall's legal bills top $40,000

County refuses payment on $8,500 of disputed services

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— Routt County taxpayers paid a private law firm more than $40,000 for Sheriff's Office legal services in 2008.

The expenditure is separate from the $318,000 the county was projected to spend in 2008 for the Routt County Attorney's Office. The county attorney's office usually provides legal services for all county departments. But Sheriff Gary Wall's frequent quarrels with the county commissioners led them to advise Wall to seek his own legal counsel two years ago. The county attorney ultimately represents the Routt County Board of Commissioners.

"It became clear two years ago : that we were likely to be in direct confrontation," County Attorney John Merrill said.

As a result, much of the work performed by The Law Offices of Ralph A. Cantafio for Wall includes legal advice about how to operate his department, work on personnel matters and other "things we normally would have helped him with," Merrill said.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners did not pay about $8,500 in legal service invoices submitted for payment in 2008 by Wall, believing some services performed by Cantafio's firm on behalf of Wall were not legitimate public expenses.

Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush defined a legitimate expense as "in general, anything that is pertinent to normal sheriff's department business that under other circumstances the sheriff's department would rely on our county attorney for."

The $8,500 withholding appears to include all or a portion of a disputed $6,700 invoice that the commissioners believed involved the internal affairs investigation of a former employee and possible criminal chargers. In the case of an internal affairs investigation, commissioners wanted to know why the investigation was not handled within the Sheriff's Office. In the case of the criminal charges, they wonder why the 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office was not used.

Wall refused to provide more information last year to justify the bill, claiming that doing so would force him to relinquish his attorney-client privilege and "jeopardize the sovereignty of my office."

The disputed services are thought to involve former Sheriff John Warner and former Deputy Lance Eldridge; both men were referenced in comments and correspondence between the sheriff and commissioners last year regarding the invoice. Eldridge delivered damaging testimony against Wall in the July jury trial that led to the sheriff's conviction for driving while ability impaired.

Mitsch Bush said Mark Fischer, an attorney at Cantafio's firm who represents Wall, has not contested the sum the county ultimately decided to pay. Asked Thursday, Wall would not say whether he made up the difference personally.

"I don't want to talk about anything like that," Wall said.

Wall also would not specify the type of legal services he asks Cantafio's firm to perform, saying only that he relies on the firm "anytime that I think there is a legal issue that I need consultation on."

The sheriff has not yet submitted any legal services invoices for payment in 2009.

Overall, the Sheriff's Office finished the year between the $4.3 million it originally was budgeted and an additional $80,000 supplemental budget approved in November. Earlier in the year, Routt County accountants said the Sheriff's Office was on track to overshoot its budget by $300,000 and the commissioners took drastic steps to curtail spending, such as instituting a Sheriff's Office hiring freeze - prior to a freeze that now applies countywide - and limiting the department's overtime and mileage.

Comments

oldskoolstmbt 5 years, 7 months ago

your so funny jason! hahaha....i'm pretty sure you post your comments for attention. (were you not held as a child?)...did your id used to be seven?LOL....and just so you know, i will post behind my REAL name from now on...marilyn monroe or thomas hardy...take your pick;)

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tcb 5 years, 7 months ago

Jason, what world are you living in? Why don't you tell all of us what great things, exactly, Wall has done for the county and citizens. Didn't you find it interesting that Wall used the word "sovereignty" in referring to his office? Interesting choice. Sounds like he believes he is a monarch.....gets to wear the tiara for 4 years. He's done nothing....nothing...and will continue to do so. The election was about winning an election and nothing else. He has no interest in serving the people of this county as a law enforcement officer. It's all about him...and people like you, frankly, who believe it's all a government set-up...an Oliver Stone-like conspiracy. Maybe he oughta tell us all what the money was spent on, as we have footed the bill. But far too many people are content to bury their heads in the sand and look the other way.

I'm with jerry, too, in wondering if wall will step forward and give up 10% and show us all what a great leader he is. This, of course, extends to all the other department heads.

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justice4all 5 years, 7 months ago

As I and many have said before and I will say again, if these legal bills are paid with tax-payer money we have the right to know what we bought. A full disclosure of these charges and an itemized statement should be printed in the Today for all to see. To not advise "us" what we bought is not doing the tax payer justice. Print it so we will have "justice4all".

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David Moss 5 years, 7 months ago

Is it 2010 yet? I am sure that we can not afford this Sheriff.

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jerry carlton 5 years, 7 months ago

Another fine example of your tax dollars at work. Gary, since you are such a "great man" are you going to return 10% of your tax paid salary to the county and suffer with the other county workers? Dianne Mitsch Bush and Jeanne Whiddon have said they will. Jeanne Whiddon was quoted as saying "didn't think she could face her employees without participating in the pain with them." Is she a bigger woman than you are a "great man"? Can you face your deputies who put their lives on the line without "participating in the pain"?

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oldskoolstmbt 5 years, 7 months ago

how was i making fun, by asking a question? i'm not your father..you should probably confront him with your anger instead of posting it on this forum...however, if this is 'therapy' for you then i will ignore you from now on..i go in peace.

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JLM 5 years, 7 months ago

An expenditure --- for anything to be paid by the public purse --- should be authorized BEFORE the service is contracted for or is otherwise authorized. That's what people do in the real world.

A Sheriff should not be in the position of being in conflict with his own County Attorney or the Commissioners.

While the Sheriff is a very important person in County government and in law enforcement, he is not a "sovereign" and his office does not exercise soverneign authority nor enjoy sovereign immunity. He is just an elected official. Hell, that's dangerous enough.

A Sheriff is just a guy w/ a badge and a gun who has some important responsibilities to the PUBLIC and does not exercise his authority independent of normal or customary financial management.

Sheriff Gary needs to grow up, get along with folks and serve the public first --- or we need to replace him at the ballot box.

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aichempty 5 years, 6 months ago

JLM,

If you read the story, you'll see that the commissioners told Wall he should hire his own attorney since the County Attorney would represent the commissioners against Wall in an adversarial proceeding. That sounds like the commissioners authorized Wall to spend money on legal services.

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trump_suit 5 years, 6 months ago

JLM, If you look back over the last two years, you will further find that it is the comissioners that forced Wall to aquire outside legal representation in their fights with him about budgeting and reporting requirements. It should be remembered that it was the comissioners that tried to force new reporting requirements that were deemed inapporpriate.

I too would like to see a full disclosure of what these expenses were for. If there is a client/attorney priviledge, then the tax paying citizens of Routt County are in fact the client. We paid the bills, show us what we got for our 40K. There had better not be anything in those notes about DUI.

PS. 30K over the 2008 budget does not sound even close to the 400K overage predicted by the comissioners. Something smells really fishy with the whole commissioner/sheriff relationship, we are just not sure which side stinks the worst

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justice4all 5 years, 6 months ago

As I said earlier: PRINT A FULL STATEMENT SHOWING WHAT WE BOUGHT!!

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