The western Moffat County town of Dinosaur has selected a new town marshal.
DINOSAUR — It has been some two months since the Dinosaur Town Council fired the town’s only police officer, Darren Reed, but soon there will be a new marshal in town.Dinosaur Mayor L.D. “Smitty” Smith confirmed in an interview with the Craig Press Tuesday, the council hired Larry Elarton, a former chief of police in Rangely and the town of Bethel, Alaska. Smith said they also hired a new deputy to assist Elarton.Controversy and a court case have followed Marshal Reed’s departure.In January, the Craig Press reported two of Moffat County Sheriff K.C. Hume’s deputies assisted 14th Judicial District Attorney investigators in what Hume called a criminal investigation into the Dinosaur Town Council.The Craig Press requested a search warrant affidavit that had possibly been executed on the town council, but the newspaper was denied access to the warrant, which was sealed by Moffat County Judge Sandra Gardner.Donna Zulian, public information officer for the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, said Tuesday she was unable to comment further due to the ongoing investigation.The subject of the investigation is not yet known, but several Dinosaur residents contacted the Craig Press in January alleging financial mismanagement of increased tax monies related to Dinosaur’s legalized recreational marijuana initiative. The residents also were outraged over the firing of Reed, Dinosaur’s town marshal, and only police officer.According to financial spreadsheets, the Craig Press obtained via Colorado Open Records requests, the town is awash in legalized marijuana tax income — some $35,000 in the offseason month of January and more than $32,000 for the month of February. Some of that money is being used to increase the budget in key areas — including the general fund and law enforcement, according to councilors.In February, Smith said investigators executed a search warrant at the office of the town clerk, who was out of town.Smith said the town conducted a national search to replace its town marshal, but the city’s attorney advised the council not to speak about the firing of Dinosaur’s marshal, which may have everything to do with why there’s an active investigation.“I believe it has something to do with what the officer who was terminated said. He believes he’s been unjustly terminated. That’s his right,” Smith said.
Dinosaur Town Council Trustee David Heinrich alleged Reed wasn’t honest and was fired for disobedience.
“He went behind our back,” Heinrich said. “If you have an employee who does the opposite of what you tell him to do, that employee will suffer the consequences.”
About a month after the Craig Press’ January report, the Dinosaur Town Council took a second taxpayer-funded trip Thursday, Feb. 28, to Steamboat Springs to testify before a grand jury regarding the sealed investigation into the small town of about 300.Trustee David Heinrich on Tuesday, Feb. 26, confirmed he and at least eight others were served a second round of subpoenas by 14th Judicial District attorneys on or about Feb. 18 compelling them to appear before a grand jury.The grand jury would decide whether to charge anyone with a crime, but its proceedings are secret and sealed from public disclosure.
“It’s costing the taxpayers money,” Heinrich said of the town administration’s trips to Steamboat. “If they’d (Dinosaur residents) just come to the budget meetings, we wouldn’t even be here.”
This week, Smith said he hasn’t heard anything from the district attorney or the grand jury since testifying.“They’re doing their investigation,” Smith said. “They interviewed a lot of us, and I’ve not heard a word about it. They’ve treated us with respect.”The hiring of a new town marshal in Dinosaur means an intergovernmental agreement with Moffat County Sheriff’s Office to police the town will be coming to an end.Moffat County and Dinosaur officials said the agreement was signed on or about March 8 and consists of a flat $6,000 fee plus $50 per call for service. Smith said the agreement has served the town well.“They’ve done a great job,” Smith said of the sheriff’s office. “We’ve had people on patrol here every day.”Smith said Dinosaur’s new town marshal and his deputy will start work hopefully around May 1.“To get the both of them is a win-win,” Smith said. “It’s really great.”Contact Clay Thorp at 970-875-1795 or cthorp@CraigDailyPress.com.