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Moffat County sheriff: Investigation launched into Dinosaur Town Council

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comments from Dinosaur Mayor L.D. “Smitty” Smith. This story has been updated to reflect Dinosaur’s town marshal resigned before Reed was town marshal. 

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.

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 pushed out, 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 Reedwas 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.

Dead Dog Fire shoots to 5,000 acres in western Moffat County

Wind gusts of more than 70 miles per hour Monday afternoon drove fast growth of the Dead Dog Fire in western Moffat County to more than 5,000 acres by evening, according to Bureau of Land Management spokesperson David Boyd.

The fire measured around only 40 acres 24 hours earlier and measured around 1,000 acres early Monday afternoon.

The Dead Dog Fire measured only 40 acres Sunday evening, pictured here from the entrance to Dinosaur National Monument Sunday afternoon. It grew to 5,000 acres by Monday evening due to extremely high winds, with no containment estimate yet available.

"The Dead Dog fire saw tremendous growth. It moved more than four miles because of the high winds," Boyd said.

U.S. Highway 40 was closed around 3 p.m. when the fire approached within a quarter mile, but was reopened at approximately 7:30 p.m., said Colorado State Patrol Captain Doug Conrad.

Blue Mountain Road between U.S Highway 40 and Rangely — also known as Moffat County Road 134 and Rio Blanco County Road 1 — remains closed as of Monday evening.

The evacuation of the small community of Blue Mountain near Dinosaur has been lifted and residents have been allowed to return home. There is still no containment estimate for the fire.

The lightning-caused Hunter Fire southwest of Meeker grew quickly Saturday but did not grow significantly Monday thanks to the hard work of firefighting crews, Boyd said. The fire has burned 1,063 acres with 30-percent containment.

More than 200 firefighters are working both fires, according to a BLM press release, with additional resources en route. Air resources also worked to contain the fires before being grounded by high winds.

The cause of Dead Dog Fire is still under investigation. It began on BLM land 10 miles north of Rangely and was reported to be around only 40 acres with no containment Sunday evening.

A new incident management team assumes command of the two fires tomorrow to free up local resources, the BLM release said.

"It's going to be a little cooler tomorrow, but we still expect very high winds," Boyd said.

High winds sustained around 20 to 25 miles per hour with gusts up to 40 miles per hour are expected Tuesday as a cold front continues to blow through the area.

The Cross Fire 35 miles west of Craig remains at 55 acres, while crews were able to contain the 67-acre Temple Fire south of Juniper Hot Springs on Sunday, according to the BLM.