Sheriff, BOCC trade barbs

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After hiring his son to maintain the grounds around the Public Safety Center, the Moffat County Sheriff did not attend a special meeting Monday to discuss whether the hiring violated the county's nepotism policy.

Sheriff Buddy Grinstead said the meeting, called by the Board of County Commissioners, was a "setup game" and he wasn't going to play it.

But the commissioners criticized Grinstead for not acting like a team player.

"We have to work together to make Moffat County work in tough economic times," Commissioner Darryl Steele said. The commissioners complained that by hiring his son, Grinstead violated the county's equal employment opportunity policy and the nepotism policy. County attorney Kathleen Taylor said that while Grinstead's actions weren't illegal, she worried the county's insurance policy might not cover his son if he was hurt on the job.

The intra-county conflict began May 11, when Grinstead placed a personnel requisition to hire a part-time employee to maintain the grounds around the Public Safety Center. The commissioners instructed Grinstead to try to fill the position through a Colorado Workforce Center program that employs teenagers with the goal of teaching them a skill. Under such an arrangement, the workforce employee's pay would come from the state.

Grinstead said he never looked into the workforce center program. He said he hired his son, Bradley Grinstead, 15, because the part-time employee would be working near inmates; he believed Bradley would be more comfortable than other juveniles in such a working environment, because he is familiar with law enforcement.

In the month between the May 11 meeting and Monday's meeting, the commissioners and Grinstead have fired off a series of angry e-mails.

"Thank you for taking your time to respond to issues that would affect me if I were a department head ... Thanks for your non-requested assistance," Grinstead wrote Taylor on May 29, in response to legal concerns Taylor said the hiring raised.

"As an elected official I cannot express how disappointed I am with your arrogance and kiss my xxx behavior. As a taxpayer, I cannot tell you how much I disapprove of this hiring decision. This is a waste of taxpayer money for individual gain," Commissioner Les Hampton wrote Grinstead on June 1.

As an elected official, Grinstead has the power to hire and fire whoever he wants, and he doesn't need the approval of the commissioners to do so, Taylor said.

However, it is the practice of elected officials to file personnel requisitions with the commissioners before filling or creating positions. In May, Elaine Sullivan, county clerk and recorder, requested an employee to help during election season. As they did with Grinstead, the commissioners advised her to apply to the workforce center for an employee.

The commissioners can grant or deny supplemental budget requests, but that is the only control they wield over the Sheriff's Office, Steele said.

The county's nepotism policy prohibits department heads from hiring close relatives. But Grinstead said the Sheriff's Office has its own nepotism policy, which only states an employee cannot directly supervise a close relative. There would be three supervisors between himself and his son, Grinstead said.

Moreover, Grinstead said he didn't violate the county's equal employment opportunity policy, even though he did not advertise for the open position before filling it.

The county usually advertises open positions.

Ironically, the equal employment opportunity policy was created so the county's emergency management office, a branch of the Sheriff's Office, could obtain a $59,000 Homeland Security grant. Grinstead signed the original draft of the policy.

"Every taxpayers' child should have had the opportunity to apply for this job," said Lynette Running, county human resources director.

But because the job is part-time and seasonal, it doesn't fall under the equal employment opportunity policy guidelines, Grinstead said.

"They're only complaining about this because this is my son," Grinstead said.

Bradley Grinstead will work 20 hours a week for a wage of $8 an hour. He began work on June 1.

The commissioners voted to have Running write "a strongly worded letter" condemning Grinstead's actions, which they would sign.

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