Wall just says ‘no’ | SteamboatToday.com

Wall just says ‘no’

Routt County sheriff won't continue GRAMNET funding

— The Routt County Sheriff’s Office no longer will contribute funding or staffing to the Greater Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team, Sheriff Gary Wall said Thursday.

And as a result, GRAMNET will refrain from conducting any narcotics investigations in rural Routt County, the leader of the drug task force said.

Wall said he made the decision because the results of GRAMNET’s work doesn’t justify an annual contribution of $115,000 from the county. GRAMNET, a regional federal drug task force, has an annual budget of $400,000.

“The expenditure of that money was not worth its results,” Wall said. “With what I know, I couldn’t support GRAMNET.”

GRAMNET commander Garrett Wiggins said Wall’s decision will affect the task force’s work in much of the county.

“There will be absolutely no narcotics investigation in rural Routt County as a result of Sheriff Wall’s decision,” he said.

However, Wiggins assured residents and community groups that the agency would continue to provide free educational seminars locally.

About $88,000 of the $115,000 Routt County contributes to the task force is for the salary of a Sheriff’s Office deputy who works for GRAMNET. Wall said that deputy now will work exclusively for the Sheriff’s Office, meaning the county will save about $27,000 a year by not funding GRAMNET.

The Sheriff’s Office is projected to have an operating budget of just more than $2 million this year.

GRAMNET now will have to rely on its three other contributing law enforcement agencies – the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office and the Craig and Steamboat Springs police departments – for staffing and operational funding. GRAMNET also receives nominal contributions from the Hayden Police Department and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office as well as a small amount of federal grant money.

Grand County, which used to represent the “G” in GRAMNET, pulled its funding from the task force in December 2005.

At the time, Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson said he didn’t think “the bang was worth the buck” because officers had difficulty investigating cases so far from Routt and Moffat counties.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration also used to provide support for GRAMNET, but it withdrew funding in 2005. Since then, GRAMNET has shifted its priorities to focus on street-level drug dealers rather than large-scale traffickers.

Wall said he made his decision after evaluating GRAMNET’s drug seizures and meeting with Wiggins and other law enforcement officers.

Wall also accused GRAMNET officers of violating the civil liberties and constitutional rights of citizens.

“During my campaign for sheriff, I said I would do what I could to protect these individual rights,” Wall said. “To continue with that agency would be disingenuous of me.”

Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta disputed that Wall met with other officers before making his decision. Vanatta said he was “aggravated” by Wall’s claims.

“He makes all these assertions and allegations that he met with all these agencies trying to research GRAMNET, so you think he’d meet with those directly involved,” he said. “But he didn’t do that.”

Vanatta said he tried to call Wall and Routt County Undersheriff David Bustos to talk about GRAMNET, but his phone calls were never returned.

Wiggins said he “totally expected” Wall to cut the county’s support of GRAMNET. Wiggins had asked Wall for a decision by Thursday so the task force could move forward with a federal grant deadline.

Wall insisted his decision to pull out of GRAMNET is not an indication he will be “soft on drugs” or not enforce drug laws.

“We have well-trained officers in drug-related issues and interdiction at the Sheriff’s Office,” Wall said.

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