Phillips: WaPo Cites Mesa County Sheriff’s Office as Misspending Public Funds

Benita Phillips is Mesa County's only woman candidate for Sheriff, and is running as a write-in candidate. She and her husband live in Palisade.

Benita Phillips is Mesa County’s only woman candidate for Sheriff, and is running as a write-in candidate. She and her husband live in Palisade.

Mesa County Sheriff write-in candidate Benita Phillips is drawing the public’s attention to an October 11 article in the Washington Post, “Asset seizures fuel police spending,” that specifically cites the Mesa County, Colorado Sheriff’s Office  (MCSO) as an example of a law enforcement agency guilty of grossly misspending public funds.

The article states,

Auditors found the Mesa County, Colo., Sheriff’s Office paid thousands for projectors, scanner equipment and other items that were not intended for law enforcement. They also paid for 20 lawyers in the Mesa County prosecutor’s office to attend a conference at the Keystone ski resort. Auditors questioned more than $78,000 in spending. The Mesa Sheriff’s Office also did not respond to calls from The Post. [Emphasis added.].

The reports the Post referenced were obtained through the newspaper’s Freedom of Information Act request – a request that could easily be made by a number of publications, like the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, as well as individual citizens in Mesa County.

The reference to mismanagement at MCSO comes crucial time in the race for Mesa County Sheriff. The most highly publicized candidates are backed by establishment Republicans, who rule politics locally yet time and again have put forth candidates who later got charged with fraud, theft, assault, plagiarism and DUIs, or have simply made terrible gaffes that reveal their ignorance and embarrass the western slope. Write-in, independent candidates for Mesa County Sheriff have seemingly been purposefully excluded from coverage by the mainstream media, as well as public campaign events like debates and forums, while not a single news outlet has undertaken serious investigative journalism into the information unearthed by the Washington Post. Even though the Post’s article was published on Saturday, October 11, 2014, there has been little to no local coverage about the story or what it reveals.

The Washington Post article reveals a possible endemic culture of misuse of public funds in Mesa County’s government offices. Sheriff candidate Benita Phillips is asking “Where does it stop?” Phillips is also identifying what is at stake in this year’s elections, asking voters whether mainstream candidates can be trusted to undertake the investigations necessary to create transparent public institutions.

The need for greater transparency in Mesa County, and at the Sheriff’s Office in particular, is all too apparent, and further steps towards a meaningful investigation must include the public’s access to the reports obtained by the Washington Post, and greater transparency from the Sheriff’s Office.

—With thanks to write-in candidate for Mesa County Sheriff, Benita Phillips, for bringing this information to attention.

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