John Horne’s recent letter cites various state statutes (laws) granting powers to county sheriffs. Unmentioned is the New Mexico Constitution, which is superior to those laws. Art. X, Sec 5C grants to Los Alamos County the power, through our County Charter, to establish our “form and organization … of government” and to “designate those officers which shall be elected.” The same section also allows us to designate “those officers and employees which shall perform the duties assigned by law to county officers.”
Under our current voter-approved Charter, Council has designated the Police Department to perform all duties assigned by state law to sheriffs, except maintenance of the sex offender registry. That, too, could be assigned to the Police Department at any time.
Forty years ago, a previous sheriff also challenged the right of Los Alamos to limit the duties of our sheriff. The court ruled against that sheriff in a short, clear decision.
When sheriffs or persons purporting to represent them are confused about their jobs, many citizens understandably are also. This recipe for tragedy can be eliminated by approving Question 1 to eliminate the unnecessary office.
*former county councilor and chair of the 1994-95 Charter Review Committee