Routt County sheriff hopefuls have 4 years of history
Missteps play into campaigns for sheriff
September 12, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Since the last election for Routt County sheriff, the two candidates who faced each other in 2006 have done good works and bad and had their names tarnished by missteps. They now prepare to face each other once again in November.
Gary Wall and Garrett Wiggins will stand on their accomplishments as they try to woo voters, but their public mistakes also will play into the election.
A rundown: Wall, the current sheriff, was arrested and convicted in 2007 for driving while ability impaired, and he often has publicly clashed with other officials, including Wiggins. Wiggins is commander of the All Crimes Enforcement Team, and two officers under his command were arrested and convicted for wrongdoings on the job, and he was caught in court with a miscount in the amount of drugs a drug dealer was accused of holding.
Wall refused to allow Colorado State Patrol troopers to test his blood alcohol level after he was pulled over Oct. 27, 2007, at Walton Creek Road and U.S. Highway 40. The trooper reportedly pulled Wall over because he did not dim his headlights. Wall has since said he regrets not having his blood alcohol content tested that night.
Wall was driving his county-owned vehicle when he was pulled over, and a jury found him guilty of DWAI.
Wall's license also was suspended for one year, despite two appeals by Wall. He took the time during an interview leading into the election to bring up the subject.
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"It was a humiliating experience. There were mistakes made. It happened three years ago. It was reported in great detail by the paper, and there probably isn't anybody who has followed that who hasn't formed an opinion," Wall said. "I don't have any more to say about it."
Wall said Friday that he has added information about the event to his website, http://www.sheriffwallforsheriff.com, and if voters ask him about the incident, he will pass out copies of what's on the site.
Wall also has clashed with public officials (usually about budgets, though he has not exceeded his), but none so personally as with Wiggins. Also on his website, Wall includes letters he has written to Steamboat Springs Police Chief JD Hays about why he does not want the Sheriff's Office to rejoin the multi-agency ACET.
In one letter, he cites the cases of Ken Johnson and Bob Brabo, the two officers who were convicted for professional misconduct, and takes aim at Wiggins' command of the office.
"Garrett Wiggins, and ACET, under his command, continue to misuse the power of law enforcement to do their job," Wall wrote in his most recent letter, dated Dec. 10, 2009. "I have knowledge of confidential informants, personally screened by Wiggins, under the supervision of ACET, commenting crimes while under contract with ACET. I can not, in good conscious associate the Office of Sheriff with either Wiggins or ACET in the future because of these troubling cases."
Wall has a section of his website devoted to the three letters and documents from an investigation into Wiggins.
Wiggins described his missteps as something he has learned from, and he said he was disappointed in his officers' actions.
"Those have been learning experiences," he said during an August interview. "Those individuals made some poor choices, and they made those choices on their own, which reflected negatively not only on themselves but on the task force and their agencies."
Both men worked for the Craig Police Department under Wiggins' supervision. Wiggins is employed by the Steamboat Springs Police Department.
"One of the things I've learned is even though you trust people with your life and you trust people to a degree that you would almost trust your own family members, people still have a tendency to let you down and make choices that reflect negatively on their department and on the task force."
Wiggins also ran into trouble while on the witness stand during the prosecution of Jose Orduno-Acuna. He was asked to add up the amount of methamphetamine and found that it didn't match the weight he listed in a report and did not meet the requirements for a special charge prosecutors were trying to get.
Wiggins said the mistake happened when he mixed up gross weights and net weights listed in his officers' reports.
"It was all factual. My report is factual. That was a very big, detailed case, and there were a lot of reports," he said.
He said when he wrote down the weights, he used the gross amounts that include the weight of the drugs and the packaging. When asked to count up the amounts in trial, it was a question about the net weight — just the drugs.
He said he was not trying to get additional charges in the case, those were added by prosecutors, and it wasn't until he got back to his office and looked over the reports that he realized where the discrepancy came from.
"At that point in time in court, I couldn't remember," he said.
He said he has heard some other allegations, but calls them "baseless," and said his high conviction rate — he lists it at 98 percent — would not be possible if he were breaking the law as Wall contended in his letter.
Wiggins, using a Facebook page for supporters at http://www.facebook.com/wigginsforsheriff, also has several endorsements from local law enforcement officials, including Hays, District Attorney Elizabeth Oldham, Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz and Hayden Police Chief Ray Birch.
The men will have the chance to answer questions from the public at a forum today in North Routt County. All candidates are invited to the forum from 4 to 6 tonight at the North Routt Fire Station No. 1, on Routt County Road 129 in Clark.