DA clears Garfield County sheriff of wrongdoing | AspenTimes.com

DA clears Garfield County sheriff of wrongdoing

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Ninth Judicial District Attorney Martin Beeson announced Wednesday afternoon that his investigation into allegations of impropriety on the part of Sheriff Lou Vallario is complete and that no charges will be filed.

“I want to say to the taxpayers of Garfield County that there is not a scintilla of evidence that supports the allegations against (the detention sergeant) or against Sheriff Lou Vallario,” Beeson told a group of reporters and about 25 sheriff’s office employees at a press conference at the Garfield County Courthouse.

“The investigation is now complete and it’s our conclusion that there is no credible evidence to indicate ” at all ” that these two persons have engaged in any criminal activity,” Beeson said.

Vallario addressed the crowd after Beeson, saying that he appreciated that the DA’s office took on the investigation to clear his name because, being a public official, he should be held to a higher standard.

“I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to say when this three-ring circus came to an end. There are a lot of things that I’ve wanted to say but I’m not going to. I’m going to let this thing die in the dirt where it arose from nine weeks ago,” Vallario said.

Vallario denied the accusations from the beginning and has repeatedly called the claims, “ridiculous” and “absolutely false.”

An anonymous e-mail was sent to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and to Garfield County Commissioners Tresi Houpt and John Martin. The unsigned e-mail accused Vallario and a detention deputy of a variety of inappropriate behaviors, including complaints about alleged favoritism and promotions.

Beeson said Wednesday the e-mail made various “incendiary allegations” about the sheriff and a detention sergeant, with whom Vallario has admitted being romantically involved. But Beeson said, “Only two of the allegations contained anything akin to criminal allegations.”

Those were the two allegations that the DA’s investigation focused on, Beeson said.

One was that the detention sergeant, with the sheriff’s knowledge, took more vacation time than she had earned, and that the sergeant also slept in her vehicle while on duty. Beeson said that both of the allegations, if true, would have constituted criminal activity ” “stealing” money from district taxpayers.

The e-mail, Beeson said, “did not so much as provide a shred of credible evidence that could lead to probable cause that a crime was committed, let alone, that crimes were committed by the sergeant or by Sheriff Vallario.

“Normally, under such circumstances, I would not have given that e-mail a second thought,” Beeson said. “I would have placed it in the trash can where it belonged.”

Garfield County commissioners requested that Beeson read the e-mail to determine if any further investigation into the allegations were warranted, because they do not have authority over the sheriff or over the DA’s office.

Beeson said previously that it would be a difficult case because of the anonymity of the e-mail. The name on the e-mail account was Jim Williams, the same name of a current sergeant with the sheriff’s office. However, Vallario has said that he is certain that Williams was not behind the message.

Beeson thanked his chief investigator ,Beth Bascom, for the thorough work she did on the case. Beeson said Bascom interviewed about 16 people in the course of investigating the allegations.

The DA said the Colorado Bureau of Investigation looked into the matter of the e-mail author and sent their conclusions to him. Beeson and Vallario also confirmed that, through a sheriff’s office internal investigation, two former employees were found to have some connection to the message. However, Beeson and Vallario would not name the authors.

Vallario said, ironically, there were two investigations of the former employees already occurring, one unrelated with the e-mail and one “somewhat” related to this investigation. The findings resulted in the termination of one employee, and the other was terminated for other reasons prior to the e-mail being sent, Vallario said.

The reason that one employee was terminated in connection with the message, Vallario said, was because the individual “failed to cooperate with the investigation.”

Beeson sent the investigation findings to neighboring 5th Judicial District Attorney Mark Hurlbert in Eagle for review. He said Hurlbert agreed with his conclusions in the case. Beeson also said that, while there is an argument of a direct conflict of interest between the DA investigating a sheriff who works within his jurisdiction, he felt it was the most prudent way to proceed and he stands by his decision.

“Is there a conflict of interest? There is an argument that there is,” Beeson said. “There is also a conflict of proper and prudent use of public resources and taxpayer monies. And for something like this, it’s our public that needed to know that he is a good sheriff, and it’s our public that should front the bill.”

Beeson also said that, based on the allegations, he did not want to burden an outside jurisdiction with a full-fledged investigation.

While Vallario was exonerated, the sheriff predicted he will have to deal with the allegations for a long time.

“I’ve been involved in law enforcement for 22 years and I have not received so much as a reprimand,” Vallario said. “But now, unfortunately, even though my name has been cleared by the DA, there will forever be people in this community that associate my name with criminal activity.

“You have no idea how difficult that is to deal with,” he said.


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