Former sheriff’s employee demands $500,000 for libel |

Former sheriff’s employee demands $500,000 for libel

Shawn Ankrom

— A former Moffat County Sheriff’s Department deputy has demanded the Moffat County Board of Commissioners pay him $500,000 because he claims he was slandered and libeled by Sheriff Buddy Grinstead.

Karl W. Hoffman was terminated from the Sheriff’s Department in December, 1998. Hoffman claims he was slandered by Grinstead in mid-January, and libeled in the Craig Daily Press in an article that ran Jan. 22, 1999.

According to a statement made in a letter to Moffat County commissioners by Hoffman’s attorney Wayne L. Westphale, Grinstead “… released private, privileged and confidential information about Mr. Hoffman to the public negligently or intentional in a way designed to hurt him emotionally and financially and has accomplish these objectives.”

The quote that related to Hoffman was Grinstead saying, “My employes are in the public eye and we have to lead by example. It’s unacceptable for someone to have that extensive of a criminal history I’m doing everything I can to set a good example.”

The letter demands $500,000 for damages to Hoffman’s health and family, and his business, professional and social relationships. The letter states damage was done “by Sheriff Grinstead, who has asserted that his conduct in office will be above reproach.”

In a letter to Grinstead dated Jan. 25, Hoffman stated “The worst part of my criminal history was expunged and two other cases were substantially dismissed. … I have never committed a violent crime and I have had no charges for more than 16 years. … I do not have an ‘extensive criminal history.’ You have severely embarrassed me and hurt my opportunity for future employment of any kind. I demand that you apologize and print a retraction in the newspaper.”

Grinstead said he has received the letter.

“We will wait to see if he files a lawsuit, and go forward,” Grinstead said. “This is just a letter of intent, it’s not an actual lawsuit.”

Grinstead explained that if an elected official wanted to, he or she could enter into office and “not reappoint the whole crew.”

When Grinstead took over as Sheriff in January, the only employees let go were Hoffman and former undersheriff Dennis Craig. Grinstead had planned early in his campaign to appoint now Undersheriff Jerry Hoberg to replace Craig.

Grinstead said he let Hoffman go based upon Hoffman’s previous arrests. Grinstead would not give specifics about the arrests, but said they “were for criminal offenses and raised a serious question about (Hoffman’s) ability to be a peace officer. Furthermore, they throw a great shadow on us in the law enforcement profession.”

“To me it clearly indicates a repetitive behavior problem,” Grinstead said. “It’s one of those things where the facts speak for themselves, and he wasn’t libeled or slandered. He wasn’t made a specific example of that’s not the case at all.”