Pitkin County deputy resigns in wake of Lake Powell transgressions
June 26, 2012
ASPEN – A Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy tendered her resignation Tuesday morning in the wake of a June incident at a Lake Powell campsite in Utah.
The resignation of Amanda Schmitt, who had worked at the Pitkin County Jail for eight months, took effect immediately, said Sheriff Joe DiSalvo.
“She almost said from the beginning that she was prepared to resign,” DiSalvo said.
Schmitt, 25, leaves behind a salary of $44,512. She won’t receive severance pay, DiSalvo said.
Schmitt had been on paid administrative leave for nearly two weeks, a disciplinary action enforced by DiSalvo. The suspension came after park rangers at the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Utah summonsed her on the morning of June 10 on suspicion of unlawful use of a weapon. The charge is a federal offense.
Park rangers also said they found 28 grams of mushrooms at the campsite, a 12-gauge shotgun, ammunition “and numerous cans of beer and alcoholic beverage bottles.” Schmitt also told a park ranger that she had taken mushrooms, but told DiSalvo that she had not ingested the drug. She was not charged for drug possession or use.
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Schmitt was one of six Roaring Fork Valley residents ticketed, including Lauren K. Redfern, a former Basalt High School teacher who was fired in February for having a sexual relationship with a student. Redfern also was initially charged with two counts of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, pattern of abuse. At the time of the Lake Powell incident, Redfern was not allowed to leave Colorado without the court’s permission, something she allegedly did not obtain.
As is often the case with personnel issues, employees are given the chance to resign or be fired. That was not the case with Schmitt, DiSalvo said. He said she resigned on her own volition, and he did not discuss termination with her.
Schmitt did not return a telephone message Tuesday, but DiSalvo said she recognized her mistake and decided it was time to move on. Staff members had lobbied for Schmitt to stay, DiSalvo said.
“Overwhelmingly, every person who gave me input, from people who work here to people who know her, said she’s the perfect candidate for reprieve,” the sheriff said. “But Amanda preferred not to bring the attention to this organization.”
DiSalvo admitted that Schmitt had seemingly been caught in the political crossfire of an office that’s been under the helm of an 18-month sheriff. And she was aware of the potential consequences after she told DiSalvo about the Lake Powell episode.
“I think it had a role in her decision making,” DiSalvo said. “She was well aware of the attention the Sheriff’s Office has been getting.”
The May 2011 cocaine busts in the Aspen area, led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, sparked criticism from federal officials that the Sheriff’s Office, namely DiSalvo, had close ties to members of the drug trafficking network. DiSalvo has maintained that he merely knew some of the DEA defendants, but was not closely associated with them.
And more recently, the Sheriff’s Office has been in the throes of personnel issue involving former Deputy Ann Stephenson. DiSalvo fired Stephenson, who worked for the Sheriff’s Office for 30 years, in March after she allegedly failed to immediately report a hit-and-run accident in which she was involved on Feb. 7. Stephenson’s law firm has put the Sheriff’s Office on notice that it faces a lawsuit for the firing.
“Amanda is fully aware of the climate this organization is in now,” DiSalvo said. “And she didn’t want to do anything to bring negative attention to this organization.”
Even so, DiSalvo said he does not have a black-and-white policy when it comes to his deputies’ behavior.
“It’s a case-by-case basis,” he said. “I will be a tolerant sheriff of the people who work for me. I want to be as tolerant of the people who work for me as I am tolerant of the people I work for, the people of Pitkin County. I will always give (my employees) the benefit of the doubt until I have reason not to.”
In the case of Schmitt, DiSalvo said “she made a bad mistake and owned up to it, and imposed her own sentence on herself.”
Schmitt’s job duties with the jail have included booking inmates and serving them meals. She is not authorized to make arrests or carry a gun, DiSalvo said.