Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins prevails in lawsuit brought on by former cop
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A former Steamboat Springs Police Department officer has lost a lawsuit she filed against Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins nearly two years ago.
Kristin Bantle filed the lawsuit in federal court May 13, 2016, alleging Wiggins violated her constitutional right to privacy when he released information related to Bantle’s past illegal drug use she felt would be kept confidential.
“Such information falls within the parameters of being related to illegal-drug criminal activity, for which Ms. Bantle had no legitimate expectation of privacy,” Chief U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger wrote in her ruling filed Friday.
The lawsuit was related to events going back to 2013 when Bantle pursued leaving the Steamboat Springs Police Department and applied for a job at the Sheriff’s Office.
During the application process, Wiggins learned Bantle did not disclose all the previous drugs she had used. He learned she used cocaine the previous summer while she was employed as a Steamboat police officer.
Wiggins felt obligated to let the local police department know about the cocaine use, but he did not disclose the information for fear Bantle would sue him.
In 2015, Wiggins became concerned with Bantle’s conduct while she worked as a Steamboat school resource officer.
Despite the possibility of Bantle filing a lawsuit, Wiggins disclosed the information about Bantle’s past drug use to the Routt County District Attorney’s Office.
Bantle was subsequently fired from the police department, and the District Attorney’s Office charged Bantle with felony attempting to influence a public servant by lying to Wiggins about past drug use.
Wiggins contends he did not want Bantle to face criminal charges.
The case went to trial, and Bantle was acquitted.
Bantle then filed the lawsuit.
In July, attorneys representing Wiggins asked the judge to rule on the lawsuit in the form of a summary judgment.
“Summary adjudication is authorized when there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and a party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law,” Krieger wrote in her ruling.
Krieger dismissed the claims against Wiggins with prejudice meaning Bantle cannot bring the issue back to federal court.
“It’s been two years that I’ve had to remain silent while these allegations are made, which I know are false,” Wiggins said. “It’s been quite frustrating. I’m really happy that this thing is about over with. I hope it’s over with.”
Erick Knaus, Routt County’s attorney, said he informed Routt County commissioners of the ruling.
Wiggins was represented by a law firm representing the county’s insurance company, and Knaus said most costs associated with the lawsuit were “virtually impossible to recover.”
Knaus said Bantle has the option to appeal the ruling to a higher federal court.
Bantle could also file a lawsuit in Colorado’s state courts alleging state laws were broken.
“I just hope that she’ll accept the results for what they are and move on with her life,” Wiggins said.
When Bantle was asked by email whether she planned to appeal the decision or file a state lawsuit, Bantle did not respond.
When asked to comment on the judge’s ruling, Bantle said Wiggins had her maliciously prosecuted because Wiggins perceived her as a threat.
On Jan. 20, Bantle filed an affidavit stating she was a Democratic candidate for sheriff in the November election, but she said she was still deciding whether to run.
On Feb. 7, she terminated her campaign.
Bantle did not respond when asked whether she still intended to face Wiggins in the election.
Friday marked one year since the Silver Creek Fire sparked northwest of Kremmling in Routt National Forest and burned more than 20,120 acres, according to data from the Rocky Mountain Incident Coordination Center.