Law could end Wiggins’ run for Routt County sheriff

ACET leader to continue campaign while Hatch Act is examined

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Garrett Wiggins

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Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall

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David Smith Jr.

One of the three candidates for Routt County sheriff is looking into a 1939 federal law that could prevent him from running for elected office, but he said he is continuing his campaign until the question is resolved.

Garrett Wiggins said he is looking through the Hatch Act to determine whether his position as All Crimes Enforcement Team drug task force commander would disallow his candidacy.

The Hatch Act was enacted to prevent federal employees from taking part in partisan political activity, for the purpose of ensuring that government institutions function fairly. The Hatch Act has been interpreted to prevent federal employees from running for partisan office in most cases.

According to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency that oversees the Hatch Act, “The Hatch Act restricts the political activity of individuals principally employed by state or local executive agencies and who work in connection with programs financed in whole or in part by federal loans or grants.”

Wiggins said the act came to his attention because of recent decisions by Moffat County elected office candidates to withdraw or reconsider their candidacies. On Feb. 27, Moffat County Sheriff’s Office investigator and EMT battalion chief K.C. Hume dropped his bid for coroner because of a perceived conflict with the Hatch Act, and a candidate for Moffat County clerk and recorder also is looking into the legality of her campaign. The woman, Lila Herod, is employed as the county’s elections supervisor.

ACET is funded through several local law enforcement agencies, and Wiggins said he is trying to determine whether federal funding, passed through the Craig Police Department to ACET, would stand in his way.

Wiggins’ salary is paid by the Steamboat Springs Police Department, and he is listed as an employee of the department. Other agencies, including the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office and Craig Police Department, contribute to ACET’s operation, sometimes with federal funds.

“It’s not clear that if I continue to run that I would be in violation of the Hatch Act,” Wiggins said Tuesday.

Wiggins said he called the U.S. Office of Special Counsel to request an audit of his situation.

“In talking to them they said it’s something they would have to take under review since my employer does not receive any (federal) benefit,” Wiggins said.

He said he was told he would not have a response for several months. A spokesman for the office did not return calls from the Steamboat Pilot & Today on Tuesday.

Wiggins said the ACET office received federal funds from the Justice Administration Act for several years through the Craig Police Department, but ACET was denied those funds in 2009 and 2010. ACET received a federal COPS grant in 2008 that was intended to last three years to upgrade equipment, but Wiggins said he did not know whether that money was entirely used.

In 2006, an Ogden, Utah, police chief ran for state Senate, and his campaign was challenged because his office received federal funds for bulletproof vests, according to published reports. The man went on to win his race, but the case is on appeal.

The Merit Systems Prot­ection Board, an administrative agency, judges potential Hatch Act violations. Violations are administrative issues, not criminal cases, and the punishment if a person is found to be in violation of the act is removal from the elected position and reclamation of any salary paid for the post.

Wiggins said that if he were advised by the Office of Special Counsel that his candidacy is in violation of the act, he would consider other options, including resigning from the post. But according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel’s Web site, as soon as a restricted person starts to campaign, they are in violation and cannot resign from their job to continue the campaign.

Wiggins likely will face David Smith Jr. in the Republican primary, and the winner of that race likely will face Democratic incumbent Gary Wall.

On Tuesday, former state Sen. Jack Taylor, chairman of the Routt County Republican Central Committee, said he had not heard of Wiggins’ potential problems and did not know the Hatch Act’s provisions well enough to provide a response.

Routt County Republicans will hold a meeting at noon today to prepare for the March 16 caucuses.

Comments

realfeel 4 years, 9 months ago

Wall is like Andy Taylor and Wiggins is like Barny Fife, Wall likes a little moonshine and guitar once and a while. Wall took Wiggins bullets away from him by not supporting gramnet to try to keep him from shooting himself in the foot.

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trump_suit 4 years, 8 months ago

Garrett Wiggins has been involved in almost every police violation of individual rights that this county has seen for the last 10-15 years. In addition the CBI reports on his ACET management was pretty scathing. I cannot imagine handing him more control over either our citizens or the employees of the Sheriff's office.

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freerider 4 years, 8 months ago

I think the Wall = Andy Taylor is about right which is a good thing ....Wiggins is more like that corporate enforcer jarhead in AVATAR...I'm pretty sure Wiggins doesn't even know what the Bill of Rights is.... or thinks it should be printed on rolls of toilet paper

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TWill 4 years, 8 months ago

What about David Smith? Its good to have a third choice here considering that Wiggins and Wall are each questionable in their own way. He has never been a police officer, but does someone really need to have been a chef to run a restaurant?

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 8 months ago

TWill, They all have flaws and they all have to make the case that they have learned and it will not happen again.

The republican primary could be interesting because Smith has to describe why he would be good and Wiggins has to explain why he wouldn't be bad.

I think if Smith wins then he'll have established the credibility that will allow him to defeat Wall.

I think Wiggins would lose to Wall because Wiggins is too right wing for the electorate and he has too many management problems of his own.

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tcb 4 years, 8 months ago

trump_suit and freerider, you appear to be monkey-boys for Wall, so put it out there. Tell us EXACTLY which violations of civil rights Wiggins has been involved in. Come on, let's hear it. Don't just flap your gums and then walk away. Let's hear the facts. It sure would help us all to make a better decision on a candidate if you'd just go ahead and put the facts out here for us. Haven't seen any stories in the Pilot about Civil Rights Lawsuits. So please tell us all about it. And while you're at it, why don't you put before us all the great things that Wall has accomplished during this term. I'm still waiting.

TWill, I think one DOES need to have been(or is)a law enforcement officer to run the agency. If somebody is going to be the chief law enforcement officer in the county, then he/she had better have experience in law enforcement matters.

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aichempty 4 years, 8 months ago

Twill,

Yeah, you really DO need to be a chef to run a restaurant. Open one, spend a lot of money on it, and find out for yourself if you don't believe me.

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TWill 4 years, 8 months ago

No thanks, aich. I'll take your word on that one.

I'm geniunely curious of just how important that aspect really is. It sure makes sense to me, but considering that our current sherrif is far more Barney Fife than Dirty Harry, it's hard to tell how critical that experience on patrol really is to the position. It sure looks like, in Routt County at least, that its as much about being able to navigate the political and bureaucratic BS as it does actaully enforcing the law. That's what the deputies and under-sherrif are for.

Although it does seem disconcerting to have either of the other two canidates, with their respective backgrounds, to hold the position too. This could be interesting...

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freerider 4 years, 8 months ago

TCB here's just a little sample for you ...ACET STINKS OF CORRUPTION !!! Since the CBI released its report, Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall released a letter criticizing ACET and its leadership for what he considers unethical practices.

Wall pulled his department out of the task force — formerly known as the Greater Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team — soon after taking office in 2007.

In his letter, he recounts the criminal cases against former Craig Police Officers Brabo and Ken Johnson, as well as alleges that Wiggins allowed Johnson’s behavior for months.

Johnson is scheduled to go on trial May 24 for three felony charges of attempting to influence a public servant, accessory to a crime and embezzlement of public property. Each of his charges relate to alleged actions while he was as a police officer while having a reported sexual relationship with a local woman convicted of drug use and distribution.

Wall also alleges Wiggins purposefully misrepresented evidence against a suspect arrested for drug distribution in Routt County.

“Garrett Wiggins, and ACET, under his command, continue to misuse the power of law enforcement to do their job,” Wall wrote.

Wall’s letter states he was approached by the Steamboat Springs police chief who asked if he would consider joining ACET if the Craig Police Department were no longer part of the program.

During a phone interview Tuesday, Wall said he likely would never join ACET because his professional opinion is that combating the illegal drug trade takes such manpower and oversight it should be done by a state or federal agency, not local police.

Wall added there appears to be signs of significant issues within the ACET chain of command.

“The thin blue line,” he said. “Cops cover for cops. … I don’t approve of that, and I don’t deal with agencies that do.”

The Routt County sheriff said it seems like some of the same issues may exist within the Craig Police Department.

“I don’t know why Ken Johnson lasted so long as a cop,” Wall said. “I don’t know why that would happen. I don’t want to be involved with a law enforcement agency that allows that to happen. … Is there no supervision? Is there no accountability Johnson was removed from ACET in March after an internal affairs investigation, which as prompted by a complaint from Wiggins. ACET may continue

The Craig City Council has debated whether it still wanted to fund ACET in light of Johnson’s arrest and Brabo’s conviction. she views ACET now or in the future. City Councilor Jennifer Riley, who has been the most publicly critical of the task force among council members, said that though she agrees with some of Wall’s concerns, he will not have much effect on how Wiggins, who is in charge of day-to-day operations for ACET, campaigned against Wall in the 2006 Routt County Sheriff election. Wall is up for re-election in 201

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freerider 4 years, 8 months ago

TCB .... what Wiggins is doing is questionable . Even the Craig city council has concern's about ACET . Drug enforcement agency's seem to think that it's ok to operate outside the law...the only thing ACET is protecting are profits for drug cartels and pharmaceudical company's. Wiggins is Captain of the ACET ship that has sunk and he should go down with it. Cops that cover for Cops , unethical practices , misuse of the power of law , misrepresented evidence in a court of law , Wiggins knew about Johnson for months etc. etc.
ACET smells like rotting fish , so go ahead and vote the jarhead that's in charge of it if you want to see the same kind of abuse in Routt County ....

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sledneck 4 years, 8 months ago

...and the crowd shouted "give unto us Barabbas."

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 8 months ago

An elected Sheriff has something like 6 months or a year to get POST certified. Does not need it on election day or to take the oath.

The worst GRAMNET arrests are probably the pot smokers on the gondola, String Cheese concert busts and Don Nord. The Oak Creek arrest in 1999 where they seized comic books, claimed they didn't have them and then returned them 3 years later when the Town Board was ready to withhold it's contribution to GRAMNET has not been forgotten in Oak Creek.

Mike Kein still has a website up that notes that GRAMNET got 44 warrants for meth labs which resulted in 1 arrest so 43 warrants interrupted the lives of people that weren't running meth labs.

I do not see evidence that ACET has that sort of abysmal record of warrants vs arrests. But Wiggins as part of ACET is going to face tough questions about his management of a small task force in which 2 officers end up facing criminal charges.

Gary Wall ran against Wiggins and GRAMNET last time and won by about 10%. Seems to me that both are polarizing figures and that neither has lost their supporters or has done anything to peal off some of those that supported the other. So similar result as last time could be expected.

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tcb 4 years, 8 months ago

freerider; I'm still waiting, too...waiting for you to answer my questions. Allow me to quote you, "I'm pretty sure Wiggins doesn't even know the Bill of Rights is....or thinks it should be printed on rolls of toilet paper." So, instead of regurgitating Gary Wall gibberish like you just did, give us CONCRETE examples of his trampling of the Bill of Rights. Point out specific examples. Feel free to blabber on and on about ACET-related stuff, that's fine. Remember, Wiggins brought Johnson's activities to the attention of the Craig Police Department(the agency who hired him). When nothing was done about it, Wiggins took his concerns to the DA's Office....who DID something. So don't give me any garbage about how he is unethical and a poor leader. Once again, give good examples of Wiggins' issues with the Bill of Rights. I'm waiting.........

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sledneck 4 years, 8 months ago

Wiggins' MIGHT have broken a law... so too might any of us.(I damn sure have) I am amused that there are so many potheads in Routt whos sensitivity to the abuses of drug enforcers might keep this guy from getting elected. GOOD! Drug laws suck... and anyone whos jackboots have trod on my fellow citizens doesn't deserve the office. But...

Wall DID drive drunk. Drunk! The freakin sheriff. DUI! Vote for or support a DUI sheriff and you potheads' otherwise sound position of " what I do in my house..." goes to hell.

My family is out there on those roads. Running the jail? Hell no! He belongs IN it.

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bandmama 4 years, 8 months ago

Why haven't we heard/read more about Mr Smith, instead of all the negatives about the other two in the running? Lets find out more about our other choice...

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boater1 4 years, 8 months ago

sledneck, just admit you hate gary wall no matter what.

yes he made a mistake and got caught. i'm sure you've done too. maybe a beer or 2 at the trailhead after a day of sleeding?

infact i'd bet most everyone on the force has at one time or another, they just cover for each other when caught. gary was on the wrong side of that cover for political reasons.

take the blinders off & stop being holier than thou.

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