Former sheriff answers critics
As a former two-term sheriff of Garfield County himself, the challenger in the Nov. 2 sheriff’s election, much like the current incumbent, has had to respond to criticisms about his own administration.
A barrage of letters to the editor and political ads in recent weeks as the election nears have been critical of both sides, including calling into question some of the policies and spending during Tom Dalessandri’s eight years in office, from 1994-2002.
But, as his opponent, Sheriff Lou Vallario, has done in defense of his eight years, Dalessandri stands behind his own record in office.
“People who know me and have worked closely with me know that we made tremendous strides in bringing experience and professionalism to the sheriff’s office,” Dalessandri said. “I’m proud of my eight years.”
Critics have poked holes in Dalessandri’s argument that Vallario is a big spender, pointing out that Dalessandri’s own sheriff’s office budget grew at more than three times the rate as Vallario’s.
True, Dalessandri said.
“But my budget went up when we built the new jail, which was a result of a federal court order,” he said. “Those increases related to the associated construction and staffing needs.
“The difference is we had emergent needs that had to be met, where [Vallario’s] increases have been a matter of choice,” Dalessandri said.
Vallario says he was elected because of “utter dissatisfaction” with the level of services provided by the sheriff’s office under Dalessandri’s leadership. So, his budget increases related to implementing and staffing some of those programs, Vallario said.
“If the community chooses to go with what Tom has in mind, then that’s their choice,” he said. “But I am concerned about lay-offs and dismantling programs that I believe have been successful in the community.”
Another concern, Vallario said, is what some have referred to as the “absentee sheriff” in relation to Dalessandri’s tenure.
“Others have used those words, not me, but that is a concern,” Vallario said, pointing to the fact that Dalessandri continued to run his private security business during his two terms in office.
“I know I wouldn’t be able to commit time to a private business, and I don’t know anyone who can commit to two full-time jobs,” he said.
That’s simply an unfair criticism, Dalessandri said.
“I was there five, six, seven days a week, and took very few vacations,” he said of his level of commitment to the sheriff’s job. “It’s an insult to me, and it’s a lie to the public to say I was an absentee sheriff.”
Dalessandri said his business, Colorado Protective Services, is operated as a family business, with a regular staff to manage things should he be re-elected sheriff.
Also among the criticisms related to Dalessandri’s administration was his policy to charge the unincorporated community of Battlement Mesa to station a sheriff’s deputy there.
“They did pay to have a resident deputy out there, which was basically like having a local city police officer,” Dalessandri said. “That’s not unique or unreasonable.”
He pointed to the town of Gypsum which, although incorporated, does not have a municipal police department and instead contracts with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Department for in-town police protection.
“We are seeing a lot of these large, unincorporated communities, and if they want more than the usual level of service, it comes with a cost,” Dalessandri said.
Vallario said he eliminated that particular arrangement with Battlement Mesa, because he disagreed with Dalessandri’s philosophy.
“A certain function of government is to provide services,” he said. “And when it comes to public safety, all citizens are entitled to the same level of services wherever you live.”
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