by Kim Cameron
In an anti-climatic decision last night, the Kremmling Town Board voted unanimously to not reappoint Kremmling Police Department (KPD) Chief Jamie Lucas and to begin searching for a new police chief.
Lucas had been on paid administrative leave since December 20, 2019 after 14th Judicial District Attorney (DA) Matt Karzen notified the Town that his courts would no longer prosecute any cases from Lucas. In
a December 18, 2019 letter, Karzen stated, “The District Attorney’s office unfortunately can no longer accept any criminal cases from Chief Lucas nor can we accept any cases that involve him acting in any investigation capacity.”
The letter was prompted after the DA’s office launched an investigation on how Lucas handled an incident of aggravated animal cruelty where a cat was killed by three minors outside of town limits.
At the time of the original letter, the town trustees rallied in support
of Lucas, questioning whether the DA had overextended his reach.
After legal research, the Town was advised that the DA was within his rights to state he would not take cases from Lucas. This opened up
the Town to potential liability concern and, ultimately, left the Town with limited options moving forward.
One trustee commented, “I considered what was best for everyone involved, but at the end of the day every decision I make is what is best for Kremmling and its citizens.”
In the spirit of moving forward, the Town of Kremmling will begin the search for a new police chief. Lucas began his position with the KPD in July 2018. In 2020, the chief was salaried at $82,792 per year and, with benefits, the Town allotted $114,627 for the position.
During the meeting, Trustee Erik Woog commented, “We have an obligation to provide a fully functioning police department as quickly as possible.”
Town Manager Dan Stoltman stated to the Board that an interim chief was vital and said he would reach out to the KPD internally for the interim. Stoltman also suggested reaching out to nearby areas and possibly posting an ad seeking a newly retired chief or sergeant.
Trustee Leo Pesch asked that the Town Board be given the opportunity to review applications when they were received.
Currently, Sergeant Dave Lawley is acting supervisor of the Kremmling Police Department. Lawley was recruited from the Lochbuie Police
Department by Lucas and joined the KPD in May of 2019. He left the KPD in the fall but, when Lucas was placed on administrative leave, he was asked to return in order to complete the training of a newly-hired officer.
Answering to 15 misdemeanor charges stemming from the DA’s investigation, Lucas is scheduled for his first court appearance in county court with Judge Nick Catanzarite at 8:45a.m. on May 5. Lucas is represented by Jeffrey Eidsness of Frontline Law and they are expected to formally request a special prosecutor from another judicial district. They maintain the initial investigation was biased.
In other Town business, newly elected town trustees were seated. Jim Miller took his official seat on the board while incumbents Dave Sammons and Jason Wikberg were re-seated. Dave Sammons was selected to be Mayor Pro Tem. Gina Schroeder had previously served as Mayor Pro Tem but did not seek re-election after completing two terms on the town board.
Reappointments garnering unanimous support from town trustees were: Joanna Eaton as Town Clerk, Doris McCallie as Town Treasurer, and Ronald Carlson as Municipal Judge. In a split vote, Town Attorney, the firm Kelly PC, was reappointed with a vote of 4-2.