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Town of Bennett ends partnership with Adams County Sheriff’s Office, citing ‘lack of transparency’

The town is now looking at Arapahoe County and its sheriff’s office for their law enforcement needs
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Posted at 3:45 PM, Feb 20, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-22 16:48:37-05

DENVER – A monthslong impasse over contract negotiations between the Town of Bennett and the Adams County Sheriff’s Office ended Tuesday with town officials severing ties with the law enforcement agency as they looked elsewhere for public safety services.

The impasse had been simmering since April 2023, when the Adams County Sheriff’s Office started discussions with the town’s Board of Trustees regarding the public safety contract for 2024 – discussions that had not yet reached a resolution by early January of this year.

The proposal from Adams County Sheriff Gene Claps asked for nearly $500,000 to provide public safety services for the Town of Bennett – a 26% increase in expenditures from previous contracts in both 2022 and 2023. In his request for that sum of money, Claps argued that the town had grown 43% since 2017 and that the proposal was below actual costs “when body-worn camera data storage, pay rate for each deputy, and overtime are considered.”

The sheriff would get an answer about where negotiations were headed from town leaders a day later, when a spokesperson for the town announced the Board of Trustees was embarking on a “strategic shift in law enforcement services” due to an “impasse in budget and resource negotiations.”

But the minutia that brought down the negotiations between the town and the sheriff’s office were not public knowledge until Tuesday, when Town of Bennett Mayor Royce Pindell revealed why the Board of Trustees made the decision to cut ties with the Adams County Sheriff’s Office.

In a strongly worded letter, Pindell accused the sheriff of not only failing to respond to the board’s attempts to engage in talks about the contract, but also of billing the town for services rendered despite having no contract in place that would entitle the sheriff’s office for compensation. Pindell went so far as to accuse the sheriff of threatening town officials with withholding some services if the bill was not paid in full by a certain day.

“In the meetings held subsequently with the Town you told us that if we refused to pay your contract price we should find services elsewhere, that the price and contract was not up for negotiation and those are what the costs are and in 2025 would have to be increased to $1.5-2 million dollars,” the letter reads.

Pindell further accused the sheriff of a “lack of interest in reaching a compromise” for failing to respond to the board’s attempts to engage in negotiation talks about the contract, and also raised several other concerns around financial figures and reports, conflicting information about service calls, lack of documentation, financial impacts to the Town of Bennett for services rendered by the sheriff’s office and threats to public safety.

"As he campaigned he said he was all about public safety throughout the county, we thought that included us... we don't know that it does now," said Pindell in an interview with Denver7 Wednesday.

“Bennett residents of Adams County will pay through property tax in 2024 $488,858.78 to your division. In addition to this you requested an additional $489,922.64 for an additional contract with the Town of Bennett,” the letter reads. “We strongly feel that this is double charging the Town of Bennett residents when, unincorporated residents are charged once but both receive the same level of service provided by your office.”

In the letter, Pindell goes on to say, “You have repeatedly stated that the County was supplementing Bennett’s calls for service, but could not provide documentation of this alleged additional cost burden and it did not align with the Municipal Court dockets. … Overall, when asked, you could not provide clarity on increased additional contract services related to actual costs associated with providing the additional law enforcement services.”

Most shockingly, Pindell states Sheriff Claps threatened the Board of Trustees in a late December letter “to remove all but emergency policing services,” which the sheriff’s office argued did not include School Resource Officers (SROs) if an agreement in the contract was not reached by the end of the year.

“Sheriff Claps, threatening to remove all but emergency policing services, and the School Resource Officer, goes against the Colorado statute and we see as an unwarranted attempt by you to exert power,” Pindell wrote in response, as he explained why the decision was made to move toward contract negotiations with Arapahoe County instead.

Though he thanked the sheriff’s office for providing public safety services despite not agreeing to a contract in 2024, Pindell argued that the town was willing to waive its “entitlement to payment” provided the sheriff’s office refund $40,826.89 for services rendered in January within 10 days of Tuesday’s letter, and asked Sheriff Claps to continue to provide public safety services until the town was able to find an alternate law enforcement agency “since it is all public funds that are at stake” and the town’s primary concern was now keeping citizens safe.

“You have made it clear to the Town that you do not wish to serve its citizens any longer and I can assure you the Town Board is equally anxious to obtain law enforcement services from an entity other than you,” Pindell wrote in his letter to Sheriff Claps, adding that he assumed the sheriff “will fully cooperate in this transition so as not to put any of our citizens at risk.”

Arapahoe County Sheriff Tyler Brown released this statement on Jan. 11 when the Town of Bennett indicated it was not renewing its contract with the Adams County Sheriff’s Office.

“We currently have an existing relationship with the Town of Bennett, due to the fact that the Town is split between Arapahoe and Adams County. The Town did approach us and asked us what it would look like to provide law enforcement contract services for the entire incorporated areas of Bennett. We are still in talks with them, but if asked, we will provide the same level of service to the Town of Bennett as we do to all the cities and towns in our county which have contracted law enforcement services.”

Denver7 reached out to the Adams County Sheriff’s Office for comment on this story but did not hear back after repeated requests.

Denver 7+ Colorado News Latest Headlines | February 20, 11am

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