Carl Bruning: Sheriff candidate wants probe into online critic saying true things about him

You thought kinda/sorta-plagiarizer Scott McInnis was a thin-skinned politician? Get a load of Carl Bruning, who's running for sheriff of Larimer County. He reportedly asked current Sheriff Jim Alderden to investigate an online critic whose disparaging comments about him are primarily based in fact.

Astonishingly enough, Alderden said "no."

Granted, Alderden, the term-limited Balloon Boy dad nemesis, is supporting Bruning's opponent for the position, Justin Smith. But it's tough to imagine anyone in law enforcement doing as Bruning requests in an e-mail labeled "Request For Formal Investigation/File Formal Complaint."

The document offers three links -- one to a piece on the website of the Fort Collins Coloradoan, which has been covering this story as well as the sheriff campaign in general, plus a gun-broker forum and a Facebook page, "STOP Carl Bruning 'Constitutional Sheriff.'"

"This is a serious matter, as these comments appear to harm my character and reputation," Bruning writes, adding, "Also, if these are being done by a volunteer with the LCSO [Larimer County Sheriff's Office], are they following your P.R.I.D.E. behavior" -- a reference to an acronym that stands for "Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Duty, and Empowerment."

As for those harmful claims, the critic in question maintains that Bruning is a member of the Sierra Club (which he is); that he worked for a California company, Covad Communications, once targeted by a shareholder lawsuit (also true); and that he doesn't have much law-enforcement experience (true, too -- although he's a military veteran).

So what's Bruning complaining about? According to the Coloradoan, the "disparaging" tone in which this information is delivered.

Here's how Alderden responded:


For someone running as the Constitutional Sheriff, you have a lot to learn about the US Constitution. There is more to it than the Second Amendment, which seems to be your sole interest. The Bill of Rights also includes the First Amendment, which governs freedom of speech.

I have read the posts and as far as I can tell, they are all true and raise some very legitimate questions. I don't see any comments posted that would warrant a criminal investigation. I would need to initiate a criminal investigation into you [sic] complaint and develop probably cause to get a search warrant for the records of the Internet providers. The PC isn't there.

When it comes to regulating the speech of employees, even Sheriff's Office employees are allowed to voice their opinions on matters of public interest. In matters such as this, the public interest trumps the departments rights to regulate the speech. This is all very clearly established law. I am shocked that a person seeking the highest law enforcement position in the county doesn't know about this very basic fundamental right of citizens, but there is only so much information former Sheriff Mack can cover in his 49 page book.

Jim Alderden Sheriff

The person behind the STOP Carl Bruning Facebook page had something to say as well. A couple of hours back, he or she posted the following: "Thinking of changing the name of this page to STOP Carl Bruning 'UnConstitutional Sheriff.' It appears that Carl's SELECTIVE law enforcement philosophy now extends to the 1st ammendment. Let's suppress all decentive voices, even if they are speaking the truth."

Be careful, pal: Next, Bruning may ask Alderden to investigate you for bad spelling.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts