Our view: Accountability counts

The war on drugs is being fought every day in Moffat County; by police and residents alike.

Unfortunately, we don't have a clear sense of how successfully it's being waged by police, even though the methamphetamine problem has recently come to the forefront of the public's consciousness.

Part of the reason is that law enforcement officials often suppress details of a narcotics investigation because they don't want to tip off drug traffickers as they work their way "up the ladder" of the drug supply chain.

Such secrecy is understandable, but it makes it hard for taxpayers to get a sense of whether their money is being put to good use.

The simple possession cases may mount, but are investigators getting any closer to putting the clamps on dealers and manufacturers?

Earlier this week, the Moffat County Board of Commissioners and Craig City Council were asked to help make up a funding shortfall for the Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team, which faced possible extinction.

Both agreed that GRAMNET played an important role in stemming the flow of drugs into the community and collectively they ponied up nearly $10,000 to keep the task force alive for at least one more year.

A lack of drug seizures in the past couple years and a decrease in federal funding has put more of the funding burden on cash-strapped local agencies to keep GRAMNET going.

Grand County already has decided to drop out of the task force. The sheriff there said GRAMNET has made enough big busts to justify the amount of money his department was contributing to the effort.

We certainly don't have a problem with local elected officials allocating resources to fight an acknowledged problem. But we do have a problem with our government representatives handing over money without demanding a certain measure of accountability.

The Craig City Council is typically a stickler when it comes to money matters. They've demanded proof that their contribution to the summer flight program would have some benefit for Moffat County. They've scrutinized the Haz-Mat program and requested proposals and annual updates on Human Resources Council contributions. But they agreed to fund GRAMNET without a public debate.

The council may have received assurances from the police chief that the money is being well spent, but they didn't pass on that information to taxpayers when they approved the funding.

Likewise, Moffat County commissioners approached it from a public relations standpoint, saying they would be sending the wrong message if they didn't support GRAMNET.

In light of the Don Nord case, the GRAMNET task force and participating law enforcement agencies deserve some tough questioning.

Nord is the disabled Hayden resident and licensed medical marijuana patient whose home was raided by GRAMNET in October 2003.

The raid raised all sorts of legal questions, because Colorado law allows the use of marijuana for medical purposes, but federal law doesn't. GRAMNET agents said they were enforcing a federal ban on marijuana when they confiscated Nord's marijuana plants, touching off a legal debate about whether federal law supercedes state law in such instances.

But the more pertinent question for Moffat County residents is whether this is a wise use of GRAMNET's resources.

Don't they have some high-level methamphetamine dealers to arrest without wasting time and energy taking away a sick man's "medicine?"

Several readers have asked that very question since GRAMNET's funding problems came to light.

We think our local elected officials are well within their rights to demand an answer before handing over a check.

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