Gary Cure, County Sheriffs of Colorado, Courtesy photo
Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall, right, listens to Weld County Sheriff John Cooke speak during a talk they gave Monday at the County Sheriffs of Colorado conference for new sheriffs.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Steamboat Springs Outgoing Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall, notorious for ongoing battles with the Routt County Board of Commissioners, stressed the importance of maintaining control of a sheriff’s office with Colorado’s new top law enforcement officials Monday.
Wall was asked to speak in Littleton as part of a two-week, 80-hour County Sheriffs of Colorado course that first-time sheriffs are required to take before entering office. Wall specifically spoke about sheriffs constitutionally being able to make their own policy decisions independently of county commissioners.
“The County Sheriffs of Colorado takes a strong position on that separation,” Wall said.
Seventeen incoming sheriffs listened to Wall, who shared a two-hour discussion with Weld County Sheriff John Cooke. The audience included Routt County’s next sheriff, Garrett Wiggins, who defeated Wall in the November election and will take office Jan. 11.
Wall’s desire to maintain control and independence of his sheriff’s office from county rules and policies has resulted in ongoing disputes with Routt County commissioners.
“It’s my personal opinion that Gary did not want to cooperate with elected officials,” Routt County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Nancy Stahoviak said Wednesday.
“They set the budget, but they don’t get to do anything else with the operation of the office,” Wall said about commissioners.
Controversy started early in Wall’s tenure as sheriff, when Undersheriff David Bustos got into a fender bender while driving a county-owned vehicle to pick up a desk in Utah.
After the incident, Wall revealed that he had changed Routt County Sheriff’s Office policies to allow deputies to use vehicles for personal use. Among other things, Wall argued that it gave the Sheriff’s Office more of a presence in the county, but his policy directly contradicted the county’s.
“My employees are employees of the sheriff,” Wall reiterated Tuesday. “They’re not county employees.”
Wall said he hoped the new sheriffs he spoke to feel empowered to stand up for the office of the sheriff, as he feels he did.
“I fought the battles rather than rolling over and folding over like a cheap chair,” Wall said.
Wiggins said he recognizes the importance of a sheriff’s office maintaining independence but he plans to take a more cooperative approach with commissioners.
“I think we’ll get along just fine,” Wiggins said.