Sheriff Buddy Grinstead has locked horns with the Board of County Commissioners again.
This time, the sheriff has angered commissioners by hiring his teenage son to maintain the grounds around the Public Safety Center for the summer.
The sheriff is unapologetic about the hire, saying he has the authority as an elected official to hire and fire as he sees fit. He has the law on his side. Commissioners readily admit that there's nothing illegal about the sheriff's actions. But that hasn't stopped them from condemning the sheriff for wasting taxpayers' money and ignoring the county's equal employment opportunity policy.
Had the sheriff chosen to fill the part-time position by going through the Colorado Workforce Center, as commissioners instructed him to do, the state would pay the wages. Instead, the money for the position is coming out of the sheriff's personnel budget.
The sheriff's budget has been a source of friction between the sheriff and commissioners. The sheriff has long blamed insufficient funding for jail staffing problems. Now, in the midst of soaring gas prices, the sheriff is facing another budget crunch. Grinstead on Tuesday said he'll have to go before the commissioners seeking supplemental funds for his operating budget this year. At that point, the commissioners could clobber him over the head for spending department funds to hire his son.
The sheriff said there's an important distinction between personnel funds and operating funds.
But that's beside the point. According to the sheriff, he's hired three other kids without going through the Colorado Workforce Center and never heard anything from commissioners about it.
"This is not the only department in the county that has relatives working for a supervisor," Grinstead added.
The county's human resources director could not be reached Tuesday to confirm the sheriff's statement. But if it's true, why the double standard?
It all boils down to a small-town squabble. Commissioners and the sheriff seem to enjoy sticking it to each other while we all watch. It's a petty game that serves no real purpose
Grinstead sees hypocrisy in the commissioner's charges that he's not a team player. He says the first he learned about the commissioners' anger was through the media "versus a phone call from Les Hampton."
"If he had an issue, he should have called me up and we could have sat down and discussed it, because there's always two sides to every story as everyone is aware," Grinstead said.
This ongoing feud doesn't look like it will be resolved anytime soon. Commissioners are preparing a strongly worded letter to send to the sheriff. It's another case of the county devoting more time and energy than necessary on a problem they have no real control over.
Instead of wringing their hands over an obstinate sheriff's hiring practices, maybe they should devote more time to solving other problems -- like hiring a fire coordinator now that the fire season is upon us.
At the same time, the sheriff must understand that he's complicit in creating a credibility problem for both his department and the county.