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County Seeks Permanent Solution For Sheriff's Office

on July 13, 2017 - 11:05am

Los Alamos County Sheriff Marco Lucero attends Tuesday night County Council meeting to ask for his office's budget and staff to be restored. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/ladailypost.com

 

By KIRSTEN LASKEY

Los Alamos Daily Post 

 

In regard to the issues surrounding the Los Alamos County Sheriff’s Office, the consensus during the Tuesday's regular County Council meeting was clear: everyone wants the issues resolved and a permanent solution put in place.

What exactly that solution will be is still to be decided. The County Council is holding a special meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 26 in Council Chambers to discuss the matter. Councilor Pete Sheehey intends to introduce a resolution that addresses restoring the budget and staff for the sheriff’s office.

Los Alamos resident Greg White and Los Alamos County Sheriff Marco Lucero presented their case at Tuesday's meeting to restore the sheriff’s office budget and staff.

“What is always my hope is that Council will adhere to the laws of the state and listen to the constituents of Los Alamos County to recognize the office of the sheriff,” Lucero told the Los Alamos Daily Post prior to the meeting.

He said right now his office has no staff and an annual fiscal year budget of $15,000. Lucero hopes the Council will approve his budget request that was presented during the budget hearings in April. Lucero requested a $385,000 budget as well as minimal staff and resources to operate the office appropriately.

If the Council approves the request, Lucero said the money and the staff would be transferred from the Los Alamos Police Department, which he said, has a budget of more than $8 million.

After the Council discussed the issue Tuesday night, Lucero told the Los Alamos Daily Post, “I think it’s a long time coming.” He added that he commended Sheehey for his efforts to introduce the resolution to return money and staff to the sheriff’s office.

White explained he requested the issue be placed on the Council agenda because he just couldn’t allow the issue to “keep kickin’ down the road.” He emphasized that after the November election when the question of whether to abolish the sheriff’s office was voted down, Council should listen to the people.

White said that he had three objectives for his agenda item. First, he wanted to find a remedy and avoid filing a lawsuit against the County Council. Second, he wanted to get the ordinance regarding the sheriff’s office changed to reach legal sufficiency and third, he wants the Council to adhere to the voters’ wishes.

“Hopefully we’ll get something accomplished tonight,” he said before the meeting.

An idea White suggested was combining the sheriff and the police departments. It was an idea that Councilor James Chrobocinski said he liked. Chrobocinski added he believed the Council should look for a permanent solution to this issue.

“I read Councilor Sheehey’s proposed resolution and I think it is a good proposal,” Chrobocinski said. Still, he felt a solution was needed to ensure these issues wouldn’t continue to turn up again and again.

“What peaked my interest in combining the two departments is a more permanent solution to the problem,” he said. “Combining those two seemed like a reasonable thought. I just like to ask the Council about possible solutions. That’s what I am really interested in seeing.”

Sheehey said, “I am receptive to any suggestion to get this long time conflict done. My resolution is an attempt to find a reasonable compromise.”

He added that the resolution seeks to have an agreement on what the sheriff’s duties would be and a clear definition of what those duties are. Sheehey acknowledged his resolution would not satisfy everyone but felt it would get working on a compromise that addresses concerns on both sides.

Councilor Chris Chandler wished to underscore that the conversation needed to be about the office of the sheriff, the laws of the government and the charter. It is inappropriate for Councilors or anyone else to single out individuals, she said.

Several members of the public gave their opinions on the issue. James Whitehead said, “I fully support the office of the sheriff. This is an office I believe in … I urge you to stop this madness.” He added that he believes the Council should return the sheriff’s staff, including the administrative assistant and undersheriff, as well as his budget.

Another speaker also gave his support to the sheriff’s office and said he felt that the police department should be put under the authority of the sheriff.

“I respect the police department and Chief Dino Sgambellone ... but I think the police department should be put under the authority of the sheriff … it has to do with separation of powers,” he said.

Local attorney George Chandler pointed out that combining departments isn’t a simple task. He noted the County charter states that the sheriff’s and police department’s duties cannot be duplicated. Furthermore, he noted the charter states that the police department is charged with preserving the peace, the County’s ordinances and enforcing the laws of the state and County. The same duties cannot be given to the sheriff, Chandler said. The only way to modify this is to change the charter to abolish the police department or abolish the sheriff’s office.

Los Alamos resident Greg White presents his agenda item to County Council Tuesday night. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/ladailypost.com


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