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Garfield Countty Sheriff sure he will be cleared by DA inquiry

John Gardner
jgardner@postindependent.com
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said he feels confident that the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s investigation will exonerate him of any wrongdoing.

“When we do internal investigations, most are unsubstantiated or unfounded, the reason for an internal investigation is to exonerate the accused of wrongdoing,” Vallario said about internal investigations within the Sheriff’s Office. “Which is exactly what the DA is going to do with me.”

The investigation came about after an anonymous e-mail was sent to Garfield County Commissioners John Martin and Tresi Houpt and to area newspapers in January. The message alleged a romantic relationship between Vallario and a detention sergeant who works at the Garfield County Jail and claimed that the relationship resulted in impropriety and misconduct on Vallario’s part.

The county commissioners decided to have District Attorney Martin Beeson investigate the allegations.

Beeson said Friday that it was going to be a difficult case because of the anonymity issue of the e-mail. The name on the e-mail account is Jim Williams, a current sergeant with the Sheriff’s Office, but Vallario said that he is 100 percent positive that Jim Williams is not the one who sent the e-mail. Vallario also said that the Sheriff’s Office has narrowed down whom they suspect sent the e-mail but didn’t provide the names and that the individual could be charged with identity theft, along with other charges, because they impersonated Sgt. Williams.

Williams was promoted to sergeant about seven months ago, according to Vallario, after another sergeant was demoted to corporal. At that time another deputy was terminated and another was given a two-day leave. Vallario said that situation caused some to become disgruntled because they were demoted or terminated and that situations like that could have been the cause for the anonymous e-mail.

“I think they just didn’t like what happened to them,” Vallario said.

Vallario has said several times that he believes the person or persons behind the anonymous e-mail are disgruntled employees and that the allegations are “absolutely ridiculous.”

In the weeks that followed the released e-mail, an editorial by the Glenwood Springs Post Independent called for a thorough investigation, while an editorial in Grand Junction’s The Daily Sentinel called for Vallario’s resignation. Vallario said he welcomes the investigation but added that he will not resign and plans to run for re-election in 2010.

“I will be running for re-election,” Vallario said. “God knows why I want to do another term, but I’ve made promises and commitments to several people, and I’m going to honor those commitments.”

Regarding the “inappropriate relationship,” Vallario said that his romantic involvement with a detention sergeant has not been a problem.

Regarding the Sheriff’s Office Relationship Policy, Vallario indicated that the Sheriff’s Office currently has 27 relationships of “some kind” within the organization, ranging from married couples to relatives. The policy states that relationships will be “managed appropriately” and if they created an “appearance of impropriety” or “discredit the Sheriff’s Office” that the supervisors of the individuals will alleviate the situation. Vallario said that this relationship didn’t fall into either of those categories until it was brought to light in the newspapers.

“I think the situation as it has been presented falls into that of the policy,” Vallario said. “But I think the relationship prior to that did not. It has now because of the attention it has drawn.”

Regarding “alleviating the situation,” Vallario pointed out that he does not work directly with the detention sergeant and that there are two levels of supervisors between them. But he also admitted that having a relationship within the workplace was probably not the best-case scenario.

“I know it’s not the best situation, but it’s not illegal,” Vallario said.

The e-mail making the allegations indicated that the relationship led to the woman being promoted over more qualified and senior employees. Vallario said that near the end of 2007, the decision to add two detention sergeant positions was made. Two corporals, one of which was the woman in question, and another corporal in the Sheriff’s Office were promoted, out of four that were qualified, with comparable pay. Both promoted sergeants currently make the same salary of around $65,000.

“Her promotion has nothing to do with the relationship, it’s got everything to do with she’s very qualified and has proven that she is qualified to be a supervisor and a valuable asset to this organization. As is everyone who has been promoted to that position,” Vallario said.

While the e-mail alleges that Vallario and the detention sergeant were involved before the promotions, Vallario said that he and the woman did not enter into the relationship until after January 2008, after the promotion occurred and after both were divorced.

The detention sergeant in question was hired in 2003. Since then, she’s had three promotions.


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