One upon a time, Lake County, Colorado contracted for fire protection services from its only professional fire department in Leadville. Then, a new sheriff was elected and decided that he wanted sheriff's deputies to do the job outside the city of Leadville. This has not worked well.
On Saturday, "two [sheriff's] deputies handcuffed a fire department captain who was trying to treat a woman with a broken neck" and he spent an hour in jail until the Leadville police chief released him.
Neither Lake County Sheriff Ed Holte, "a retired Colorado State Patrol trooper who was elected to his first term as Lake County sheriff almost four years ago," nor Fire Chief Robert Harvey look good as their underlings play out the conflict. There aren't any grownups in charge here.
But, Holte is the more guilty party. The contract between Lake County and the Leadville Fire Department for it Leadville to provide services countywide is still in force and will continue to be through December 2010, yet "Holte has had emergency dispatchers, who work for him, sending deputies first to all emergency calls, including medical calls." Holte is playing games with the lives of the people of Lake County in emergency situations in order to expand his own power base in a way contrary to the city and county agreement that is still in force.
Leadville's Mayor "and a police officer are now on call to accompany all fire department dispatches as observers." The county commissioner's are calling a special meeting to figure out what to do, but there is only so much that they can do. While the fire department and police department in Leadville report to the Mayor, the Sheriff, who is an elected official, does not directly report to the County Commissioners, who merely set his budget. The District Attorney is likewise trying to figure out whether to press charges and how to respond.
Ed Holte is a loose canon.
One can hope that Lake County's voters, who are known for the independent thinking, exercise the good sense to cut him loose this November when he runs for re-election. But, this may not be easy.
Holte, a Democrat, is currently unopposed in his run to receive the Democratic Party nomination for the post, although it is still not too late for Democrats to petition onto the primary ballot, and in a county with a low population like Lake County, petitioning onto the ballot is not that difficult an enterprise. If the Lake County Republican Party is running a candidate (they don't even have a website), I can't find him.