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Time for change: Buglione for sheriff | opinion

Editor’s note: Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo is currently receiving treatment for a medical issue and was not available to respond or confirm to some of the comments in this column.

Michael Buglione’s candidacy for sheriff presents Pitkin County voters with an opportunity to return to the solid, humanitarian law enforcement practices we enjoyed under Dick Keinast and Bob Braudis.

The incumbent, Joey DiSalvo, has, after 12 years, drifted away from our community both literally and philosophically.

Buglione is clear about one of the central issues in the sheriff’s office: We don’t need a new $20 million, 43-cell jail.

We need a hands-on, full-time sheriff, not a second homeowner who rents here and owns a home in Palm Springs, California, and apparently spends quite a bit of time there golfing with his pals.

DiSalvo lays claim to the legacy of his predecessors without delivering on the substance. When asked for records on jail incidents and basic data like inmate population over the past decade, he at first told this columnist that there would be a $4,000 upfront charge for the data. He later claimed that everything prior to five years ago is no longer available. So far, he seems willing and able to block Pitkin County Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury’s more extensive request for data. One hopes she isn’t being held up for $4,000 and won’t be permanently stonewalled.

Buglione knows better: The jail population is posted daily online and, since the issue of a new jail arose, neither he nor anyone else has seen a jail census in excess of the 14 inmates listed in today’s report. That is virtually unchanged for the past 40 years and actually a bit less than this county typically housed 40 years ago. And I should know because I helped the prior jail administrator prepare the jail data on Excel spreadsheets. Then and now, there was no need for a 43-cell jail for an aging, wealthy and stagnant population with ever fewer young people.

Buglione thinks the current jail can be remodeled to accommodate the small population safely. This is not a county plagued by gang violence or any gangs more “dangerous” than the Bell Mountain Buckaroos. The money saved could be used to recruit and house deputies.

Buglione is committed to being hands-on and a full-time resident. He doesn’t own a second home in Palm Springs nor is he invested financially in distributing vodka here and around the county. Dislavo thinks it’s OK to solicit sales of his Lift Vodka to local bars and restaurants. Joey is quoted in the Aspen Times as personally “schlepping” cases of the vodka to local establishments.

I’m from Chicago. My family owned a restaurant with two bars on the premises. If the Cook County sheriff dropped by to ask us to purvey his personal brand, even I, as a 12-year-old cashier and helper, would have known better than to say no. Nice little restaurant your old man has here, kid. Wouldn’t want anything bad to happen.

Contrast this with Bob Braudis: When a Red Mountain “high roller” presented the sheriff’s department with expensive steaks and foods as a reward for answering a call, Braudis made him take the products back. Not asking favors and not accepting them should be the rule for any sheriff in dealing with citizens and businesses.

The sheriff, as a “peace officer” under CRS 16-2.5-103, has authority to enforce the liquor code. Lift vodka is apparently manufactured (distilled) in California using Aspen water. Hawking vodka to businesses subject to your enforcement authority may or may not be legal under the convoluted state liquor code, but it has the look and feel of pulling someone over for speeding and being asked whether you want to buy some tickets to the police officers’ fundraiser. Google the lyrics, “I love you, Goodbye,” by Thomas Dolby.

Just last year, an inmate tried to seize a jailer’s stun gun. Stun guns, it would seem obvious, are something that attract rather than deter misconduct. By the time someone grabs an officer, the stun gun is useless. The inmate in question was subdued by four officers, apparently without being stunned. Oddly enough, Garfield County was successfully sued on inmate treatment.

In the years following the hiring of Ms. Vallario after a casual cocktail party exchange with Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario, the jail has had who knows how many such incidents. We do know that an intercom system destroyed by a drunk in 2015 had not been replaced by 2021 when the officer was attacked and that the holding cell for this dangerous inmate did not have a slot to deliver meals without opening the door. How hard is that to figure out without spending $20 million for a jail across from the airport?

Buglione deserves our support. He has a family here and no interest in courting the “high rollers” with vodka pitches in Denver and New York or joining the Palm Springs social scene. We need a local who wants the job and will stay in touch with us.

Mick Ireland was recruited by Dick Kienast to join the force years ago. He knew Bob Braudis, he worked with Bob and he knows Joey is not Bob Braudis. [email protected]

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