Sheriff’s office decision at standstill

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The cases filed by Los Alamos County Sheriff Marco Lucero and Los Alamos County regarding the reinstatement of the county sheriff’s office duties will likely not be resolved this year.
The latest court filings show the cases were postponed until after Dec. 22.
A year and a half ago, in May 2016, Los Alamos County Council voted to take away the budget and most of the duties of the Los Alamos County Sheriff’s Office. In November 2016, people voted to keep the Los Alamos County Sheriff’s Office in a referendum. The county and the council then did nothing with the issue for many months.

Lucero filed a lawsuit against the county in August, saying to the courts that the county was not following state statutes “to adequately fund the sheriff’s office to provide law enforcement pursuant to state statute.”

The county filed a countersuit in October citing it’s status and recognition by the state as an incorporated county as the reason it could abolish the sheriff’s office entirely.

“By creating a home rule form of government, the county has provided itself with the power to exercise maximum local self-government to which the courts give liberal construction to the powers of the municipality,” the county said in its lawsuit against Lucero.

The two cases have since been combined, and the next hearing just may be, after a proper hearing, a decision on who’s right. The decision would be carried out by First Judicial Court Judge Francis Mathew.

Lucero said he hopes that’s what happens.

“It’s kind of frustrating, because I was hoping this would be done sooner rather than later,” he said of the wishes of his case against the county being resolved sooner. “I’m hoping we just go in and talk on the merits on both sides and see what he decides.”

Marco’s attorney, A. Blair Dunn, believes this should be a simple case also.

“The only things that are in dispute are questions of law. Our theory is, they’re not allowed to abridge state statute and the responsibilities the legislature gave to the sheriff,”  Dunn said.

He also said this issue is probably going to take a long time to settle.

“I don’t see this going away anytime soon,” Dunn said. “The county has shown absolutely zero appetite to sit down and work this out. They just want to continue to act like they’re right and that there’s no chance they’re wrong.”