by Rick Langenberg (related cover story):
The town of Green Mountain Falls can’t escape political fireworks, and now concerns are mounting regarding the future of local law enforcement in the small Ute Pass burg. After months of private meetings, recall threats, reports of strained relations, and talk of privatizing the GMF police department, the town’s head marshal Tim Bradley and the elected leaders have officially parted ways.
Last week, the GMF Board of Trustees by a 7-0 verdict voted to accept the resignation of Bradley, the town’s head law enforcement chief for the last two and a half years, and agreed to offer him a $12,000 severance package, with the details to be worked out by the town attorney. Bradley left his position on Friday and the locks on the marshal’s building were changed and the phones were disconnected, according to GMF Mayor Lorrie Worthey.
The timing of the marshal’s exit, and the circumstances behind this move, are generating a slew of concerns, mostly voiced on social media outlets, with some residents viewing this move as the final death blow for the town’s long-standing tradition of having a head marshal. Others also believe this was the culmination of a campaign orchestrated by several elected leaders, who allegedly had an “ax to grind” with the former police chief.
The majority trustees, though, say that isn’t the case. This compensation offer, which occurred in a closed door meeting on Nov. 5, came shortly after the trustees indicated they would keep the marshal’s office but would restructure the department. “They restructured it alright. They got rid of the marshal,” blasted Dick Bratton, a long-time resident and former mayor and council member. “This is very sad. In my opinion, he was the best marshal Green Mountain Falls ever had.” “I am very concerned,” said Worthey. “I am totally against the direction this (agreement) seems to be headed. The timing is definitely questionable. There seems to be a private agenda,” added the mayor, who has found herself at odds with the majority trustee members on a variety of issues, including the operations of the marshal’s office.
Worthey stated that the marshal’s exit was prompted by 2014 budget discussions, with a majority of the board members wanting to eliminate the marshal’s position in January of next year.
That said, Worthey cautioned that town leaders have received the full cooperation from the El Paso County Sheriff’s agency, which is completely in charge of law enforcement now in Green Mountain Falls. “Green Mountain Falls is grateful for the assistance and continued partnership of El Paso County and the Sheriff’s Office. The Green Mountain Falls Board of Trustees remains committed to the safety of our citizens and are exploring options for long term solutions,” said Worthey, in a prepared statement. “As the mayor, I will ensure that residents will be kept informed about our community’s public safety. I have been in touch with Sheriff (Terry) Maketa and Commissioner (Sallie) Clark and we are collaborating to assure citizen safety in Green Mountain Falls.”
The town’s other law officer, Susan Barnes, is on medical leave, following a physical assault when two people reportedly attacked her while she was on duty. This incident occurred late last month. This has further raised the anxiety level among some local residents, who are considering forming neighborhood watch groups. “It is obvious we need law enforcement in Green Mountain Falls,” said Worthey, who is questioning the thought-process and timing behind the actions of the majority council members, whom she believes have sought to part ways with Bradley for some time and want to no longer have a marshal’s office.
Marshal’s Office still part of GMF traditions
However, veteran trustee Jane Newberry, a possible contender for mayor in next spring’s election, says these reports of eliminating the marshal’s office are totally false. “Absolutely, there will be a marshal’s department in Green Mountain Fall,” said Newberry, who stressed that this point was made loud and clear during a public meeting last week. However, she admitted proposed plans call for a slight reorganization of this office. “There will be a marshal’s department. The face of it will just be different.” According to the direction most elected leaders appear to support, Newberry said this new focus would have the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department doing the brunt of investigations and crime work, with the marshal handling more code enforcement and community service duties. “We want the marshal to be that friendly face and have that person do more community policing. Why not take advantage of what the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office offers us. They do a fine job.”
This joint El Paso County/GMF Marshal alignment would get cemented with a Ute Pass sheriff’s substation, with a headquarters in Green Mountain Falls (see related story). But where that office would be located is still under debate.
Newberry also disagrees with Worthey’s analysis of the budget. According to the mayor pro tem, the town leaders hadn’t finalized anything pertaining to eliminating the marshal’s position. She said one proposal called for drastically reducing the agency’s expenses and not having a full-time marshal. By contrast, she said Bradley wanted to have two full-time officers. “We just couldn’t accommodate that request with our limited budget,” related Newberry.
But other government critics, including representatives of a local concerned citizens group, still aren’t convinced and view the latest resignation as a forced exit, under the threat of “take the money and run.”
End of a controversial reign
In any case, Bradley’s exit marks the end of one of GMF’s more controversial marshal reigns. Bradley was named as the town’s head marshal in the summer of 2011. He then announced an aggressive plan to crack down on speeding offenses in the main part of town, with his agency giving out a record number of tickets.
This campaign generated mixed opinions, with a few of the current trustees criticizing this approach. Bradley also spearheaded the effort to change the name of the law enforcement agency from the marshal’s office to the Green Mountain Falls Police Department. “He was an outstanding marshal,” commented Worthey. “Crime was really down under his administration and relations with other departments really improved.” Similar sentiments were echoed by Bratton, who stated that former board members, including himself, were the ones that directed Bradley to crack down on speeders in the main part of town. “We had a big problem with people driving too fast,” added the former council member and mayor.
Worthey believes that relations between Bradley and the town trustees began to deteriorate when Howard Price was selected last winter as the board representative to oversee the agency, replacing the mayor from this role. According to many reports, Price had previous issues with the marshal. Moreover, several of Bradley’s additional proposals, such as a plan to add a canine to its unit, were squashed by the majority council members. In addition, concerns were raised by several trustees regarding the fiscal future of the agency. Veteran Trustee Mac Pitrone previously cited some communications and financial issues between the board and Bradley. An attempt was even made by several leaders to research the prospects of privatizing the agency and consolidate more duties with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department. Several trustees met privately with Maketa. In the last few months, Bradley gained much support among a group of citizens, who challenged the majority leaders of the city council and even mulled a recall campaign. They cited keeping the marshal’s office intact as a prime campaign platform, indicating that the town’s public safety needs are in danger.
Newberry quipped that opinions have widely varied in regards to Bradley’s role as head marshal, ranging from the chief who wrote too many speeding tickets, to “the savior of Green Mountain Falls.”