adams county

Cities sue sheriff, commissioners

Inmate cap dispute at county jail becomes legal battle

Courtesy photo
Five cities, including Thornton, Northglenn and Federal Heights, are suing the Adams County sheriff and board of commissioners for refusing to accept municipal inmates at the county jail.
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The cities of Thornton and Northglenn are among five cities who have filed a joint complaint against the Adams County Board of Commissioners and Sheriff Doug Darr for restricting or denying to house municipal prisoners in the county jail.

Aurora, Commerce City and Federal Heights are the other plaintiffs named in the civil suit, which was filed Feb. 19 in the Adams County District Court. The board of commissioners includes Eva Henry, Charles Tedesco and Erik Hansen.

The cities are disputing Darr’s authority to refuse municipal inmates at the Adams County Jail, noting that the commissioners rescinded a cap on municipal inmates during its April 15, 2013 meeting.

The cities are asking the court to compel Darr to accept municipal prisoners and ask for monetary damages for Aurora.

Thornton Mayor Heidi Williams said that the city has been working hard with the county and the sheriff’s office for more than two years to resolve the issues but to no avail.

“Thornton has had lawfully detained offenders released by the sheriff’s jail staff and we’ve had to monitor the number of our prisoners daily,” she said. “The arbitrary cap imposed by the sheriff is unacceptable and we believe it’s time for a court to clarify whether the sheriff has the authority to impose these restrictions.”

The board of commissioners approved a cap restriction on municipal inmates, which was enacted on Jan. 1, 2012, to help ease financial constraints at the county jail. The cap was set at 30 and was divided among nine cities: Thornton, eight; Westminster, five; Aurora and Commerce City, four apiece; Northglenn and Brighton, three each; and one each for Federal Heights, Arvada and Bennett.

The commissioners — during their April 15, 2013 meeting — unanimously rescinded the caps placed on the number of inmates sent by cities to the county jail. However, the sheriff continued to impose the cap.

Thornton, Westminster, Aurora, Commerce City and Brighton police chiefs aired public safety concerns related to inmates being turned away from the Adams County jail during a press conference May 28, 2013.

Darr responded with his own press conference the following day and said that budget cuts and hiring restrictions made by the board of county commissioners affect jail staffing.

The commissioners unanimously approved during its regular meeting Monday to reinstate the cap on municipal inmates at 30.

“The board is encouraging an ongoing dialogue between the sheriff’s office and the impacted municipalities to resolve this issue outside of a courtroom,” the board said in a statement.