Appeal board hears Wilks case testimony |

Appeal board hears Wilks case testimony

January 25, 2004 New Castle Colorado

NEW CASTLE ” A four-member appeal board heard arguments Friday for and against reinstating New Castle police sergeant Ed Wilks, who was fired over the controversial shooting of a dog.

After hearing hours of testimony Friday afternoon and evening, the appeal board now has 25 days to make a ruling.

Interested residents filled council chambers in Town Hall to capacity to hear testimony presented by town officials, Wilks’ attorney and witnesses.

Wilks filed an appeal with the town after he was fired for giving the order to officers to kill what he described as a vicious dog on Oct. 15. His goal is to be reinstated onto the police department.

The black Lab, named Jenny, belonged to the Klein family of New Castle and was running loose that day. She was not wearing identifying tags, and had previous citations for running at large.

New Castle town attorney David McConaughy argued that Wilks’ firing was justified for three main reasons:

– Wilks didn’t follow the town’s vicious dog ordinance.

– Wilks changed the narrative portion of the incident police report by removing the number of shots fired at the dog.

– Wilks’ decision to shoot and kill the dog brought criticism onto the police department.

“Ultimately the evidence will support the decision we made, and we hope you will support it,” McConaughy said to the appeal board.

Wilks’ attorney, Ted Hess of Glenwood Springs, asked for time to directly question members of the appeal board to determine whether they’d give an impartial opinion.

“I just want to be sure we have a hearing where the impartiality of it can’t be questioned,” Hess said.

“I don’t really see the point of it,” McConaughy said. It would be “nothing but sidetracking what we’re trying to accomplish,” he said.

Greg Russi, the speaker for the appeal board, said the proceeding was administrative in nature, not an official court of law, and turned down Hess’ request.

In opening statements, Hess portrayed Wilks as a highly-respected officer with a list of commendations.

“This man was the finest police officer on the New Castle Police Department, and what has happened is just wrong,” Hess said.

He said Wilks exhausted other options before giving the order to New Castle police officer Justin Wareham and Silt police Sgt. Tony Pagni to shoot the dog.

“The one thing we will take exception to is the Monday morning quarterbacking,” Hess said, referring to the idea that Jenny could have been left in the back of Wareham’s patrol car until a better detention area could be found. That idea came up after the incident, he said.

“Police officers do not and cannot think like that. They need to be accomplishing their duty,” Hess said.

Hess also argued the town’s charge that Wilks brought unjust criticism of the town is vague.

“If you’re going to terminate Mr. Wilks, do it on something solid,” he said.

While testifying for the town, New Castle police chief Chris Sadler said one of the biggest reasons Wilks was fired was because he took the number of shots out of the narrative report. He called the deletion of that information “fabrications of the truth” and he said it made the report “absolutely incomprehensible.”

Sadler was on vacation at the time of the shooting, so Wilks was in charge.

Hess argued that Wilks took the number of fired shots out of the report to protect the city, adding that a separate document called a “use of force report” lists the number of shots fired.

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511

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