Moffat County sheriff: Investigation launched into Dinosaur Town Council
January 31, 2019
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comments from Dinosaur Mayor L.D. “Smitty” Smith.
DINOSAUR — The town council of a small Moffat County community might be in big trouble.
Moffat County Sheriff K.C. Hume on Wednesday confirmed two of his deputies assisted 14th Judicial District Attorney investigators Tuesday in what Hume called a criminal investigation into the Dinosaur Town Council.
On Thursday morning, 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 had been sealed Tuesday by Moffat County Judge Sandra Gardner.
Donna Zulian, public information officer for the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, said the search warrant was sealed due to the ongoing investigation.
“There is an investigation going in Dinosaur at this time, but that's all we can release,” Zulian said Thursday.
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According to its website, Dinosaur's Town Council includes Mayor L.D. "Smitty" Smith, Mayor Pro-Tem Janice Karren, and trustees Darcie Rocque, David Heinrich, Chuck Winkler, and Davonna Wilczek, who serve the almost 350 residents of Dinosaur.
The subject of the investigation is not yet known, but several Dinosaur residents have contacted the Craig Press in the past week alleging financial mismanagement of increased tax monies related to Dinosaur's legalized recreational marijuana initiative. The residents also were outraged over the firing of Darren Reed, Dinosaur's town marshal and only police officer.
After residents and business owners learned Dinosaur's second town marshal in less than a year had been fired on Monday, they held a town hall meeting Tuesday at the Highway Bar & Grill.
During the event, streamed live on Facebook by Reed, residents expressed their concerns and decided to initiate a petition to recall the town council.
A GoFundMe page for Reed — Financial Assistance for Marshall Reed — was generated on Wednesday and so far has collected $50 of a $6,000 goal to help pay his living expenses.
"Marshall (sic) Reed has been a respected and great addition to the Dinosaur community and due to unfortunate circumstances was wrongfully relieved of his duties for protecting the rights of those who live within the town of Dinosaur," the GoFundMe page reads. "We are asking for funding to help cover the bills that Marshall Reed is faced with until he is able to find other sources for income. We greatly appreciate any amount of money that you are able to donate and appreciate every share of this account with your friends and family."
No one answered the phone at Dinosaur City Hall Wednesday afternoon. It is considered the offseason in the small community, situated down the road from Colorado's iconic Dinosaur National Monument. But the Craig Press did reach Dinosaur’s mayor, L.D. Smith, by phone early Thursday.
Smith confirmed investigators executed a search warrant Tuesday at the town clerk’s office, who is currently out of town. Smith said the town is conducting a national search to replace its town marshal, but the city’s attorney has 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,” Smith said. “He believes he's been unjustly terminated. That's his right."
As for alleged mismanagement of legalized recreational marijuana tax revenue, Smith said those allegations are untrue.
“There hasn't been any mismanagement,” Dinosaur’s mayor said. “We're audited all the time.”
The city has listed the town marshal job on its website — complete with a job description, personal history questionnaire, and an application for the marshal's office.
The last town council meeting posted on Dinosaur’s website Wednesday was in January 2018 and there are no other subsequent council meeting announcements.
"I do not know what their plans are as far as replacing Town Marshal Darren Reed," Hume said.
The sheriff said he attended Tuesday’s town hall meeting in Dinosaur with Rio Blanco County Sheriff Anthony Mazzola.
"We work very closely together," Hume said.
The two sheriffs plan to work with other area policing agencies to provide law enforcement services to Dinosaur when needed. At least one Moffat County sheriff's deputy lives in Rangely, Hume said, about 20 minutes southeast of Dinosaur.
Until Dinosaur hires a new town marshal, Hume plans to contract with Dinosaur's city leaders for certain law enforcement services, but added Smith is now technically the city's top cop.
"Statutorily, the mayor would be the main contact for law enforcement," Hume said.
Contact Clay Thorp at 970-875-1795 or cthorp@CraigDailyPress.com.