Routt County disputes sheriff’s fees

Commissioners in suit with law firm about $16,000 in legal costs



— The law offices of Ralph Cantafio are going after the Routt County Board of Commissioners for $16,000 in unpaid legal fees stemming from disagreements between the commissioners and Sheriff Gary Wall.

In February, Cantafio filed a lawsuit to try to force the county to pay the fees he said the county owes him after commissioners reportedly directed Wall to find independent counsel. The lawsuit states that in 2007, Wall was told to find counsel, and in spring 2009, the Routt County Sheriff’s Office hired Cantafio’s firm for legal representation concerning the possibility of pay cuts for sheriff’s deputies.

“Despite req­uests for payment in full … and presentation of the invoice by sheriff Wall, the (Board of Commissioners) refused payment and continues to refuse payment as to the outstanding portion of this legal bill, despite its having appropriated monies through the budgeting process for such purpose,” the complaint from Cantafio states.

The county, through County Attorney John Merrill, filed a motion to dismiss the case and to demand more information in early March, stating that no contract exists and that Cantafio failed to say how the county benefited from the legal services under an argument of implied contract. The implied contract argument by Cantafio states that the county should pay even though no formal contract was signed.

The county’s response also states that if the case isn’t dismissed, Wall should be added as a party because he was the direct client.

Cantafio’s office “has an attorney-client relationship with the sheriff, with whom it has an express, executed contract,” Merrill’s response states. “No party other than the sheriff is identified in the fee agreement as being responsible for the payment of legal fees incurred by the sheriff.”

Cantafio’s office responded that the Sheriff’s Office has no legal authority to pay its bills independently, so the payment must come from the Board of Commissioners.

The attempt to include the sheriff in the case “seeks only to politicize this issue,” the reply states.

Wall said he is not involved in the case, and Mark Fischer, an attorney in Cantafio’s firm, agreed that the sheriff is not directly involved in the litigation.

Fischer said the suit is still in the preliminary stages. Can­tafio’s suit seeks the $16,000 in payments, plus legal fees and any costs.

No court date has been set.


Wayne Eller 7 years ago

Great timing. Is this smelling of politics ?


steamboatsprings 7 years ago

Amazing that Gary is still our Sheriff, how many times does he have to embarrass our community, send the wrong message to our kids and play politics like a spoiled child before we've had enough. Good thing there is an election coming, hopefully Gary's promise to to not enforce drug laws won't overwhelm his track record this time at the polls.


JLM 7 years ago

What a bunch of dopes.

A lawyer signs a contract with a client (Sheriff Wall), represents him in an adverse proceeding v the County Board of Commissioners and then demands payment from the adverse party.

Could somebody please check and see if Cantafio actually has a law license and whether he actually graduated from law school?

The law firm has no privity with the Board of Commissioners and thus no right to demand payment under any circumstances.

Sheriff Wall is simply too high maintenance for civilized folks and needs to go elsewhere and stop fomenting trouble at every turn.

This is ridiculous.


trump_suit 7 years ago

Not to give Gary much credit here, he has clearly made some serious mistakes along the way but?

Did not the County Commissioners tell him that he needed to obtain outside representation for he dispute between the Sheriff's Office and the County over budget issues?

As I recall (suspect memory?) the dispute was over the departments budget and who had control of how it was spent. Gary (The Sheriff) was advised to obtain outside council becuase the lawyers for the County could not represent both parties.

If that is the case, then the advice should be pubic record and there would be no problem paying this bill. The questions really are "What was the advice" and "Why is it not public information if the public has to pay?"

If this advice was truly on the constitutional question about the independant operation of the Sheriff's Office and budget issues then the County should step up and pay. If it was however about personal issues or if the records cannot/will not be made public then we have a different kind of smell altogether. I am not sure that we the public know enough about this issue to make an informed decision yet.


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