Committee to recall Douglas County sheriff in no rush

Organizers are waiting for the right moment to begin petitioning

Posted 9/16/19

It has been seven months since the Committee to Recall Tony Spurlock was formed as a response to the Douglas County sheriff's support of Colorado's red flag law, and still, petitioning has not begun. …

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Committee to recall Douglas County sheriff in no rush

Organizers are waiting for the right moment to begin petitioning

Posted

It has been seven months since the Committee to Recall Tony Spurlock was formed as a response to the Douglas County sheriff's support of Colorado's red flag law, and still, petitioning has not begun.

That's because the committee has been notified of new information regarding the sheriff, recall organizer Robert Wareham said.

“So we are independently verifying some additional allegations that have been brought forward,” said Wareham, an attorney from Highlands Ranch. “We will take whatever time is necessary to do that.”

While the committee doesn't have any deadlines for beginning the petition, once it starts, the committee must gather 35,000 valid signatures in 60 days. If successful, a special election would be called asking voters if they'd like to see Spurlock recalled from office.

“And that's why we want to make sure that all of our ducks are in a row before we pull that trigger of submitting the (petition) language,” Wareham said.

Spurlock is "not worried at all" about the recall committee, he said in an interview. He believes the entire effort is politically and personally driven and not in the best interest of the county, he said.

The recall effort began as a response to Spurlock's support of the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill, commonly known as a red flag law. The measure was passed in the spring by the Democrat-controlled state Legislature in the face of strong opposition from many Republican lawmakers and gun-rights advocates.

Under the law, which will be enacted in January 2020, household members or law enforcement can petition a judge to confiscate guns from an individual who they argue poses a “significant risk” to themselves or others. If the judge agrees, the guns could be confiscated for up to 364 days.

Now, the committee has expanded its grievances about the Republican sheriff to his overall job performance and administration, Wareham said.

The county's board of commissioners has confirmed that on Aug. 29, it received an eight-page anonymous letter on allegations within the sheriff's office, spokeswoman Wendy Holmes said. The county has declined to release the letter to the public because it was marked by the sender as confidential and includes information about personnel, she said.

The letter includes various accusations about misconduct in the sheriff's office, according to a source familiar with the letter.

Wareham said he did not write the letter and does not know who did.

Funding the effort

So far, the committee has raised nearly $11,000 and spent more than $5,000 according to public financial reports.

Of the 16 contributors, 12 are Douglas County residents. The remaining contributors are from Arizona, Denver County, Pueblo County and Arapahoe County.

The largest contribution by far came from a Castle Rock construction company called Liberty Infrastructure LLC. In April, Frank Krekeler, the company's founder, donated $10,000 of company funds to the recall effort.

”I don't think we can have a sheriff around that doesn't uphold his consitutional oath,” Krekeler said.

Krekeler, who said he has voted for Spurlock in the past, didn't know much about the sheriff until the red flag law came up, he said. While many people think of the law as a Second Amendment issue, he sees it as more of a Fourth Amendment issue.

”Government officials do not have the right to knock on your door without serious due process” he said. ”It's got abuse written all over it.”

The recall committee has used donations to pay for T-shirts, signs and a website. More than $1,300 has gone to a campaign finance management group called Campaign Integrity Watchdog.

'Real concerns'

Another person who donated to the committee because of worries about potential abuses of the law is Castle Rock Councilmember George Teal.

”I made the contribution because I do have real concerns about Sheriff Spurlock backing the red flag law,” Teal said. "Tony betrayed the Republican Party who nominated him.”

In March, Teal donated $100 to the recall effort.

Castle Rock has begun looking into ways officials can direct police regarding the law, including requiring a higher burden of proof, Teal said.

”I would like to see a burden of proof that approaches just cause, which is the burden of proof we expect of our police officers to conduct themselves at all times,” Teal said.

He also supports residents of the town considering signing the recall petition, he said.

Spurlock's response

To Spurlock, the whole effort is a waste of time, he said.

“They didn't like my position on red flag, but none of them participated in trying to find a solution either,” he said. “It seems counterproductive.”

In response to the expanded reasons for attempting a recall, Spurlock said the committee was “grasping at straws.”

“I've been the sheriff for five years, I've been a police officer for 40 years, I was the undersheriff for nine,” he said. “I have an impeccable record.”

Spurlock believes the group is continuously changing their reasoning for recall due to a lack of backing from the community, he said.

“They don't have the strength, they don't have the support over the red flag… now he's trying to find another angle all of a sudden,” he said.

In a Douglas County voter opinion poll this year, 53 percent of residents said they agree that law enforcement should be allowed to seize guns if the owner is thought to be a threat to themselves or the community.

Spurlock — whose department experienced tragedy when Deputy Zackari Parrish was fatally shot by a man believed to be mentally ill in December 2017 — said his support of the red flag law stands strong.

“Why would I waiver because someone is politically after me?” he said. “Life is more important than politics.”

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