We delayed responding to this letter because the matter was pending a legal review. We recently obtained that final review.
Sheriff Bill Elder sent a certified, return receipt letter dated October 20, 2017 to Mike Angley. We received it Oct 27, 2017 and you can read it here: Bill Elder’s Oct 20th Letter.
He takes issues with some of the statements we made in our Oct 20th post, ‘Follow the Money: Never-Ending Lawsuits and YOUR Money.’ We’ll address those issues in a moment, but we want to state up front:
A Candidate’s Record is Fair Game
It’s not only fair game, but we intend to go after Sheriff Elder’s record hard. If that appears negative, it’s because the record itself is unflattering, and not the fact we’re talking about it.
Besides, the Elder camp boasts about that same record and what it perceives to be positive accomplishments, so it’s only fair we get to shine light on the negatives. The Sheriff can’t have it both ways.
Elections are for the citizens to decide who will represent them, and an incumbent’s performance is a major factor.
Proving His Critics Right
As a side note, we’ve spoken with over 300 members of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPSO) since our campaign began two and a half months ago. One persistent complaint is the hostile, bullying, threatening, and intimidating environment they perceive they work in. Sheriff Elder’s letter only serves to reinforce what others have told us about the climate there and gives us a glimpse into what they have been complaining about.
If the Sheriff wants to soften his alleged reputation for bullying people, sending a fellow candidate a threatening letter isn’t exactly the way to go about it. Nor is pulling me aside at a restaurant luncheon, in view of guests, and attempting to browbeat me about my public comments.
That luncheon was with a group of El Paso County Republican women on Nov 13th, just days after the Sheriff’s alleged ‘bizarre rant’ to the news media, as reported by the Colorado Springs Independent, Sheriff Bill Elder Calls Indy Story “Crap”.
Let’s dispense with the low hanging fruit first. He points out that our post incorrectly identified a plaintiff in a settled lawsuit with the EPSO and the county. He also notes that we tagged the wrong judicial district as the one that dismissed charges against a former EPSO Commander. We caught those errors ourselves and issued a correction on Oct 22nd, five full days before receiving the Sheriff’s letter: Follow the Money: Correction.
In his opening paragraph, he took issue with some statements we made about EPSO having ‘broken the bank’ and ‘cut corners.’ As proof that we were wrong he cites a response I received from a CORA request I submitted several weeks back.
In the 80+ pages the County Attorney sent (little of which satisfied the original CORA request) were some budget summaries for EPSO. Elder claims that he’s actually underspent and implies that he has not run short of specific funds as we have reported from our sources (but he never says that directly).
Since Sheriff Elder dodges the specific, alleged budget shortfalls themselves, we’ll ask the tough questions here:
- Did the Mobile Command (MOCOM) vehicle sit in a repair facility for approximately two months because EPSO was unable to pay the repair bill? Yes or No?
- Are other EPSO vehicles being parked when they break down because there is no money to pay for their repair? Yes or No?
- Has EPSO reduced firearms proficiency training from four times a year for patrol deputies to once or twice a year? Was that because it cannot pay for the ammunition they need? Yes or No?
- If EPSO has been unable to pay some of its critical bills, how does that square with being ‘underspent’ as the Sheriff claims?
One can have a net worth in the millions, but still have credit card debt and a mortgage. Similarly, EPSO may have a surplus in the aggregate, but have overspent in critical money streams and created the need to cut corners (which raises serious officer safety issues if it’s true). Our sources tell us that’s exactly what happened.
To assuage the Sheriff’s concerns, we’ve sprinkled the original paragraph in the post in question with phrases like, ‘we’ve been told,’ and ‘if these allegations are true.’
We stand by what has been reported to us, and we’ve been sending CORA requests to EPSO to obtain documents to support or refute the claims.
Intimidation Won’t Work
The rest of the letter appears to be an awkward attempt to intimidate me into silence about his record. It’s poorly-crafted legalese built upon the conflated argument that criticizing his record amounts to a violation of Colorado state law about false statements during a campaign. It does not.
It is threatening in that a sitting Sheriff – with the statutory power to make arrests and investigate crimes — is tossing around Colorado statutes and using words like ‘recklessly,’ ‘malice,’ and ‘defamatory,’ while demanding I retract my post.
When the Founding Fathers crafted the Bill of Rights, they recognized that political speech – criticism of government itself – was the type of speech most in need of protection. First Amendment free speech (includes a Free Press) is still protected today, 226 years after the Bill of Rights was ratified.
The Sheriff’s apparent attempt to shut down my speech should run a chill through the spine of every civil liberty-minded citizen of this county.
His letter is also threatening in light of recent alleged attempts by El Paso County to prosecute citizens for simply exercising free speech or for ‘crimes’ based upon thin evidence. Here are two stories to illustrate these concerns: ‘Suit: Colorado Springs man hit with felony for threatening to go public with claims of false prosecution,’ and ‘UPDATE: Felony charges dismissed against John San Agustin.’
We’ve accurately related what we’ve been told about alleged budget shortfalls by multiple people in the EPSO. If we ever get our CORA requests answered fully and in a timely manner, then perhaps our assessment will change.
Elder’s record is fair game, and if it appears ugly for us to surface it, that’s because the record itself is negative. I’m merely the messenger casting rays of much needed sunlight upon it.
Informed citizens are empowered citizens.