Breaking: Former Palisade Police Chief shares his frustrations with the Town of Palisade Administration and direction of the town!
VetTheGov sat down with former Town of Palisade Police Chief Carroll Quarles about a month ago to discuss the dysfunctional nature of a town he used to police gone wild from within. Mr. Quarles discussion was a very pleasant and refreshing conversation of Truth and reality of his working in a progressive government. VetTheGov released this story in which the former chief's name was used as a segway into the devisive politics and accusations that have taken out so many employees during his tenure. This line from the story was simply used to show how sexual harassment complaints are used in this town to remove individuals that don't fit in to the progressive mindset. When Mr. Quarles read the story that included his name he was frustrated that it reflected his situation in the wrong light or inaccurate. VetTheGov reached out to Mr. Quarles and explained that the one line in the story was only being used as a segway into the many sexual harassment complaints and sexual escapades rumored or kept confidential from within the town hall walls and was meant in no way to discredit his service to the community. After apologies from both parties VetTheGov asked for permission to post his response to the original story and Mr. Quarles agreed.
Here is former Palisade Police Chief's email received:
Subject: Erroneous Information
Message: In your article, "Things in Palisade aren't so Peachy" you mentioned that my termination from employment was due to a sexual harassment complaint that was investigated by CIRSA. If that is the case, I was not made aware that was the reason for my termination. Would you like the "rest of the story" as Paul Harvey used to say?
Acting Chief Debra Funston was hired by me to fill a full time investigator position at Palisade PD. At the time, we had a Sergeant who became frustrated with me because I refused to allow him to be her direct supervisor. I explained to him that management of a police agency has two basic organizational lines. One is "line function", and the other is "staff function." A line function is a patrol function which is the backbone of all police agencies. A staff function covers everything else, including investigations. As such, investigators do not report to the patrol sergeant as their first line supervisor. In our case, the department was too small to have a more than one investigator. Since the investigator was working primarily day shift, it was appropriate that the investigator report directly to the chief. The Sgt vehemently disagreed, and he was able to convince half the patrol shift that I was wrong, and therefore untrustworthy. This was the beginning of the breakdown between me and the staff, exacerbated by my second in command.
After Funston was hired, and working day shift, we had many opportunities to discuss cases and put out internal fires caused by the Sgt. There were also times when she, I, and the records clerk (also a female) shared many "war stories". One of the stories I told concerned a former police officer who was immature in many ways, especially concerning women. The town had a woman employee who had very large breasts. It was obvious to anyone who watched this officer when speaking to this female employee that he was focused on her breasts, and never looked at her face except fleetingly. Now, I didn't just bring up this story out of the blue. We were talking about sexual harassment as a problem in our culture. Neither of the women were offended by the remarks, and I never heard any complaints.
Several weeks passed, and I directed the Sgt to conduct a field training program for Funston. During this program, the Sgt was very critical of her. He accused her of not completing her reports, being a coward, and anything else he could think of to create a rift between us. I asked him for a written complaint, based on actual evidence, and never received one from him. I asked him if he expected me to discipline an employee without any proof about the things he was complaining about, and he said that he did. I disagreed, and did not discipline her.
A month before I was terminated, the Sgt filed a complaint with the Human Resources department about my having sexually harassed Funston. I was contacted by Rich Sales and given a copy of the complaint. Funston had not signed the complaint, only the Sgt did, who was allegedly reporting it on her behalf because she was afraid of retaliation. I recognized right away that I was in a pickle. If I tried to talk to Funston it would appear that I was trying to subvert the investigation, and perhaps be retaliating against her. I decided to take a chance, and scheduled a meeting at Riverbend park with her in one car and I in another. I told her to turn on her recorder, which she did. The entire conversation was recorded by Funston.
I told her that the Sgt had filed a complaint of sexual harassment against me on her behalf. I did not ask here any questions about the complaint, or try to pressure her about the complaint at all. I showed her a copy of the complaint, and she was surprised by it. She said that she had repeated the story to him when the were on patrol, and that he had used it to make his own complaint without her knowledge, while using her as the tool to have standing with the complaint. I told her that if I was guilty of any such behavior, I should not be the chief, and should be fired. She recorded the entire conversation, and I never mentioned it to her again, and until this day, we have never talked about it. But, here's what happened:
When the human services rep interviewed her concerning the complaint, she told him that I had never sexually harassed her. She said that she had never seen or heard me make any disparaging remarks about women, make innuendo or hint at sexual situations. She told him the context of the conversation I described earlier, and reiterated that there was nothing sexual about it. However, she retained an attorney who sent the town administrator a letter expressing his concern for his client's treatment by the Sgt, and that he would be keeping close tabs on the way his client might be treated by the town in the future. In other words, "back off".
That is the truth concerning the "sexual harassment" complaint made by the Sgt. I have no idea whether CIRSA investigated the complaint, but my guess is they did not since the complaint was unfounded at the beginning. CIRSA would only get involved if there was a settlement of some sort, which to my knowledge, did not happen. Of course, many things have happened since I left, and apparently, this "rumor" that I was fired for sexual harassment is one of them. What better way for Sales and Co. to protect themselves from political fallout for firing a well respected and effective police chief? I'm not perfect, but I never sexually harassed anyone...ever.
My termination was a direct result of my inability to keep my mouth shut about the advent of the legal marijuana business in Palisade. Here's what happened:
Robert Melot is a self described entrepreneur who moved to Palisade in the early 2000's. He developed a subdivision just east of Palisade High School, and also built an office building where Fruit and Wine Real Estate, the Distillery, and Canyon Winds Winery are now located. He also built a office building just north of the Distillery and Winery. He leased some of the office Space to the Colorado Association of Vinters, and the other half of the building was vacant. The real estate marked crashed in 2008, and Melot was having a hard time making ends meet. A vintner from Denver wanted to open a new tasting room at the vacant space in Melot's building. The vintner went through the planning process, and when the Town Board heard arguments concerning impacts to the neighborhood, it denied the permit.
The regulation of alcohol is well established in laws concerning zoning, parking, sewer, noise, traffic mitigation, etc. No such rules applied to the marijuana industry at the time. Melot was whining about the town putting him out of business, and Tim Sarmo, the town administrator at the time told me he felt sorry for Melot because the bankers were getting ready to foreclose on his business. The town had not done the right thing concerning the tasting room. I had no dog in the fight, so I made no comments.
The above situation took place in May, 2009. In October that same year, I received an email from Sarmo on Monday explaining that there would be a special meeting of the town board on a Tuesday between the regular board meeting days. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss medical marijuana. The meeting had been posted on the bulletin board just outside town hall, which fulfilled the sunshine law requirement. On Tuesday, Sarmo called me into his office and told me that the board was going to consider approving a business license application for a medical marijuana dispensary in Melot's building. He told me that he knew I would not be in support of the license, and that he did not want me to make any editorial comments during the meeting, and just answer direct questions from the board. Having received a direct order to keep my mouth shut, I kept it shut. I was only asked one question during the meeting, which was generic.
The only people who attended the meeting were the trustees, the department heads and clerk, and one citizen: Robert Melot. The press was not there. The applicants were not there. No citizens were there. It was during the world series, and one of the trustees said "I hope this doesn't take long, I want to go watch the game." I knew as soon as I sat down that this meeting had been discussed beforehand by phone between Sarmo and the trustees. By doing it this way, all the discussion was completed, and the sunshine law was not a consideration. The vote was pre-determined. The community was not made aware of the advent of the dispensary. The press was not invited, and the department heads had been kept out of the loop until the last minute to control the possibility of any information being leaked. In the months between May and October, meetings between Melot, Jesse and Dessa Laughman, Tim Sarmo, and Nathan Boddy (Town Planner) had taken place to streamline the process and keep the public out of it. The trustees voted 6-1 to approve.
The local newspaper (The Palisade Tribune) ran an article about the dispensary, and also asked me to comment on it. I wrote a rather lengthy response which was not in favor of it, and I was pretty sure I made it clear what I thought of how the process took place. Sarmo and the trustees were livid! If not for the Whistleblower Act, I'm sure I would have been fired. Sarmo was too smart to fire me, but it was clear that I hadn't endeared myself to him and the trustees. Be that as it may, the dispensary is now the goose that laid the golden egg in Palisade, and I am just a bad memory. How is any of this relevant?
Tim Sarmo was a former employee of the Department of Local Affairs. So was Rich Sales. They have known each other and been friends for over 20 years. When Sales was fired from his job with the City of Delta, Sarmo hired him as the Assistant Town Administrator for Palisade, a position that was created by Sarmo. How convenient that he hires his long time friend to be his replacement, which the trustees were more than happy to rubber stamp. I admit I was taken in by Sales. He was pleasant where Sarmo was not. He seemed to want to hear what his staff had to say, where Sarmo didn't. He seemed to want to put to rest the turmoil surrounding Mayor Walker's recall, and other political issues, where Sarmo didn't. He treated me fairly, when Sarmo didn't. So, I was more than glad to give him a glowing recommendation to the Trustees when he was "competing" with a panel of applicants for Sarmo's position.
Within just a few months of Sales taking over as town administrator, his demeanor toward me changed. He would receive an erroneous complaint from the Town Treasurer/Human Resources head, and without asking me my side of the issue, write me a reprimand. When he would serve me, I would tell him what really happened, and the reprimand was withdrawn. Things got so bad between the police department and the treasurer that I finally told Sales that I had had enough. I told him that the Town treasurer was an officer of the town, and as such, reported directly to the Trustees. Consequently, since he (Sales) was not able to get her under control, I would take the issue directly to the trustees myself. He asked me not to do that, and I stood down...for a while. Finally, the treasurer, who also administered the health insurance reimbursements for employees, refused to honor one of the officer's request for a reimbursement for some small piece of therapeutic clothing. The same article had been reimbursed for one of the other officers. When the treasurer told him no, he asked her why she had approved the other officer's request. She said, "I was in a good mood that day. I'm not in a good mood today."
Sales was in Glenwood Springs when this happened. I had communicated via email with the treasurer who became quite agitated at me. I forwarded the emails to Sales, and to the Trustees. This made Sales very angry. This was about 6 months before I was fired. Now, I'm no rocket scientist, but I can see where Sales was too quick to discipline me without all the facts, and refuse to discipline a treasurer with all the facts. I can see where I stepped on his toes by going over his head, which I had told him I intended to do if things didn't change. So, I shot myself in the foot so to speak. All of these things are taking place at the same time I'm having issues with the Sgt concerning Funston.
In early October, 2012, I had finally had enough of the Sgt, and I told Sales I was going to fire him. I had caught the Sgt lying to me about another personnel issue concerning officers under his supervision. I told Sales this on Monday the 10th, and was fired on Wednesday the 12th. He called me into his office and said this: "I've got some bad news for you chief. Today is your last day." I not so calmly asked him why. He said there was no reason, that I was an at will employee and that the town could end our relationship at any time without cause. I knew this to be true, so I packed my bags, and left that same day. Ask yourself, Mr. Vetter, if I had been guilty of Sexual Harassment and had been terminated for such foolishness, wouldn't Sales and the Trustees be in a better position to defend themselves against the outcry of an angry public? How easy would it have been to simply say so? Yet, they waited, apparently until the dust had cleared, and somehow leaked it to someone. If CIRSA had investigated the complaint, and decided to settle out of court, wouldn't that settlement be part of the public record at some level? The town contracts with CIRSA for insurance coverage. They do not pay CIRSA for investigations CIRSA conducts based on potential payment of claims. Your insinuation that the town spent money because of the investigation of a sexual harassment complaint is not true. Funston was in a position to file a complaint of "Creating a hostile work environment" based on the Sgt.'s behavior. Whether she did or not, I don't know. So if CIRSA investigated anything based on a sexual harassment complaint, it had nothing to do with me. If they paid a settlement, I would check into hostile work environment complaints by Funston against the Sgt.
If I were Funston, I wouldn't comment on any of this, especially since she is now the acting Chief of Police. Yet, it would be interesting if someone were to ask her if I had harassed her, just what she would say. If she has any integrity at all, she would say, "No."
Here is a video clip where Mr. Quarles explained the same situation during a meeting to discuss a possible run for Mesa County Sheriff.
Now you have the rest of the story and hopefully draws more attention to the inside dysfunctional operations of progressive small town political agenda gone awry! Could these same reasons of standing up against the towns obvious direction of marijuana based businesses be the demise of the new Palisade Police Chief? Sure seems like the situation playing out like many in the past! Stay tuned more to come!