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LIFE ON THE EDGE

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The council sided with Pfeuffer. But then-mayor Ron Allison vetoed the raise. "Money was tight," he says simply.

The cops never did follow through on their threat to quit en masse. And Pfeuffer didn't curtail his D.A.R.E. program or anti-gang efforts. Instead the chief estimated he could solve some of his budget woes by seizing cash and property recovered during felony arrests. He projected that the department could raise $100,000 in one year.

Edgewater cops had already set up a "reverse sting" operation, offering to sell large amounts of marijuana to out-of-town dealers who traveled to Edgewater to do their shopping. By mid-October, the department had seized three cars and $3,000 in cash from drug suspects (officers are now allowed to drive one of the cars, a Camaro, while on patrol). Police picked up another $50,000 from a pawnbroker whose shop they seized after it was declared a "public nuisance."

Pfeuffer's money-raising efforts drew the attention of the media, and after Brune and former councilman Nelson McNulty expressed their concerns to the Denver Post, Pfeuffer sent the council a six-page response defending his actions.

Edgewater's narcotics program resembled programs in effect at "most progressive police departments," he said, and was developed in response to input from the public, the mayor and the council. "Historically," he wrote, "the Edgewater Police Department has been less than aggressive in dealing with narcotics."

And if the town's elected officials disliked his approach, he added, he would in the future appreciate discussing the matters "before reading it in the local press." (Oddly, Pfeuffer now says he can't remember ever receiving any bad press about the seizure of cash and vehicles.)

Some town residents claim that Pfeuffer exaggerates crime in order to back up his funding requests. Brune in particular is quick to criticize what she calls Pfeuffer's semimonthly "dog-and-pony show" at council meetings. Once, to illustrate that the city had a gang problem, the chief and some of his officers "brought an entire closet door with grafitti on it" to a council meeting, she says with disbelief.

The chief has also drawn criticism for building his power base at the expense of other city agencies. "He's a marvelous politician," former councilwoman Jeri Aiello says of Pfeuffer. "But sometimes he gets his position and his politics mixed up."

According to city records, Pfeuffer's department went over budget in 1991 and 1992, and was projected to do so again in 1993. "There's nothing to prevent them from doing that," says Brune. "He asked for a motorcycle and we said no, so they leased one. His next move," she predicts, "is going to be that he needs more police officers."

Actually, Pfeuffer's next move is to ask the city to establish its own probation department, a high-ticket item that most cities his size would never dream of having.

The chief says he suspects that some of the criticism directed at him is "politically oriented. We do have some problems," he says. "I admit they exist. One of them is that it's difficult to present a positive image when you're being attacked by people with different agendas."

The town's political agendas were front and center when Pfeuffer arrived in Edgewater from Rangely. Back in the spring of 1991, Edgewater was in the midst of one of its most highly publicized--and highly destructive--public squabbles.

Much of the dissension centered around then-city attorney James Windholz, who was under fire for representing the city and the embattled redevelopment authority at the same time. "The citizens," says Brune, "were questioning whether or not he was advising council in the city's best interest or in the urban renewal's best interest."

Windholz's fees also became a matter of contention when city clerk Julie Calvert brought to Mayor Allison's attention her estimate that more than ten percent of the town's revenues were going to pay Windholz's $100,000-plus annual legal fees.

Somehow, Calvert's attempt to save the town money backfired. Rather than replace Windholz, the council--reportedly led by councilmembers Jodie Lucero and Rex Swann--took the exceptional step of ordering a costly outside audit of Calvert and the town's own clerk's office. The audit dragged on for months but turned up nothing questionable. According to city council minutes, Calvert took a leave of absence at the suggestion of her therapist, who advised that contact with the council would be too stressful. Windholz, meanwhile, continued to hang on to his job. But just barely.

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Karen Bowers