One of the more difficult things in life is to know something’s wrong and find no one will listen to you.
For several years, we’ve been writing stories about how various law enforcement officers in Leadville and Lake County have run amuck.
And let’s face it. We’re not talking about nickle-and-dime transgressions. We’re talking “amuck.”
So what a relief it is to be able to talk about a law enforcement officer who did the right thing.
His name is Sam Reynolds and he is a deputy at the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. Reynolds joined LCSO after a stint at the Leadville Police Department. When he went to LCSO, Rod Fenske was sheriff and Bill Kirkland was undersheriff.
While undersheriff, Kirkland instituted a set of fees for those who were incarcerated, which included a booking fee of $30, a bond fee of $10 per bond and a $15 fee for cost of care per day if approved by the courts.
As it turned out, Kirkland apparently didn’t pass on that each inmate needed a separate cost of care order from the court. Deputy Mike Buerke, the jailer, began charging inmates without the orders.
One of the jail inmates became concerned about what was happening and voiced his suspicions to Reynolds who occasionally had to perform some jail duties.
Reynolds then spent some time investigating the inmate’s complaint and concluded that the sheriff’s office was acting improperly. When he tried to report his findings, other deputies including Kirkland basically told him to back off or argued that he was wrong. He even mentioned his concerns to a deputy district attorney, but apparently not in sufficient detail to lead the deputy DA to think anything was wrong.
“The culture at the Lake County Sheriff’s Office was that deputies who complained or raised issues could suffer repercussions,” said the grand jury report in this matter.
In January, Sheriff Amy Reyes took office. The report notes that Fenske had discussed Reynolds with Reyes in a manner that suggested Reynolds might have a performance issue.
In any case, Reyes listened to Reynolds and then passed his concerns to the D.A., who turned it over to a grand jury. Subsequent investigation determined at least 14 inmate files had been improperly billed amounting to more than $16,000 in 2018.
The grand jury didn’t hand down any indictments against Fenske, Kirkland or Buerke. However it did find they failed to diligently perform their duties.
In a news release, District Attorney Bruce Brown chastised Fenske and his people while thanking the grand jury for its hard work.
“The investigation is an example of official misconduct but was not deemed criminal,” he said. “The involved personnel have all since left the sheriff’s office.”
Well, not quite. Sam Reynolds is still working there.
If you want to say thanks to Sam, he isn’t hard to spot. He’s the only deputy that’s almost eight feet tall.