By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
Shearer, however, claims that in the past four years his opponent has fired eleven people "for no known reason at all." And the Fraternal Order of Police's Colorado Lodge No. 1, which is solidly opposed to the "pleasure statute," has thrown its support to Shearer, in part because he's taken an aggressive stand against the statute. "During the past seven years," Shearer wrote in a March 25, 1994, letter to FOP members, "we have seen the statute used to generate a climate of fear. Careers have been destroyed without due process. This WILL NOT continue."
The most hotly contested firings involved three deputies who were ousted not long after Camp's re-election in 1990. After the post-election "bloodbath," as it's still referred to within the department, the deputies claimed in a lawsuit that Camp fired them because they'd supported Anderson. Camp claimed the men were fired for insubordination. A federal jury sided with Camp.
At least two other former employees have since filed "intent to sue" notices over their dismissals. Camp says he's ready and willing to take them on. "I hope they take me to court," the sheriff says defiantly. And one of those whom Camp could be meeting in court is LuzMaria Shearer, Bill Shearer's wife. LuzMaria, who landed a job as an Adams County officer after her husband signed on, was fired after Bill Shearer began actively campaigning for sheriff. Departmental sources claim Camp fired her because of a rumor that she was offering people jobs in her husband's future administration.
Like many officers near the top of the department, Bill Shearer bounced around from post to post after signing on with Camp. He headed up the detective division for three years before taking over the same duties for the patrol division. Then he was transferred to head up the support services division. In April 1992 he was placed in charge of jail operations.
Camp now claims he moved Shearer around because the division chief made a mess every place he landed. "I brought him in here and he disrupted the detective division," Camp complains. "He didn't function well in patrol. The people hated him so much that I moved him to headquarters where the undersheriff's thumb would be on top of him. Things were okay there, but when I moved him to the jail, things started going to pot.
"The man cannot command," continues the sheriff. "In this business, it's the measure of a man when he walks his talk. Bill can't walk the talk, and he's never been able to do it. He can walk the walk and talk the talk, but he can't walk the talk."
In his March 25 letter to the FOP, however, Shearer suggested that it's Camp who has trouble walking and talking at the same time. "If you believe as I do that the Department can and should be better, if you believe those in leadership positions should walk what they talk, then this time you have a clear choice," he wrote. Shearer ended the letter by saying that, if elected, he hoped the officers would conclude that he had "walked his talk."
Shearer disputes Camp's description of his job abilities and the reasons for his moves from division to division. At the time, he says, he was told the moves were necessary to give other people experience. And what with Camp's upper echelon disappearing at a rapid clip, experience was not always easy to come by. Jerry Fricke, the retired Aurora Police Department division chief Camp hired in 1987 to head the patrol division, didn't even last out Camp's first term. Deborah Langston was another early casualty. (Camp says he can no longer remember if he fired Langston or allowed her to resign.)
As a division chief, Shearer was in on quite a few of Camp's efforts to divest himself of unwanted employees. He now says Camp would target employees based on rumor and innuendo, and that his presence was one of the few things standing in the way of their abrupt dismissal. "We spent an awful lot of time investigating suspicions of misconduct by various subordinates," Shearer says today. The department grapevine continues to hum with tales of deputies who were investigated for being "disloyal" or taking long lunches.
Whether Shearer was merely an innocent bystander in those personnel fights is still a matter of debate--some deputies continue to see the pair as a kind of Nixon-Haldeman dirty-tricks duo. "Camp was autocratic," says a former employee. "He rewarded people to spy. Bill Shearer would start whispering campaigns, and Camp would listen. One of Ed's problems was that he listened to Bill too long." Shearer denies the claim.
When Camp was re-elected in 1990, he made it clear it would be his last term. "[Camp] kept saying, `Two terms and I'm gone, and you're on your own in '95,'" Shearer says. And so, after the 1990 election Shearer began thinking about running for sheriff himself. In March 1991 he switched his political affiliation from Republican to Democrat and began working hard at party politics. But even though Camp wasn't in the running, he planned to throw his weight behind deputy chief John Tagert--and Shearer was bumping up against the sheriff's agenda.