Off Limits

The son also rises: Senatorial progeny Colin Lee (don't call me Nighthorse) Campbell has been raking in the gubernatorial appointments. In December, Governor Bill Owens asked him to serve on the eleven-member Colorado Utility Consumers Board, which makes recommendations on policies to the Office of Consumer Counsel, and in February the guv selected him for an opening on the Sixth Judicial District Nominating Commission, which helps choose judges for the Durango/La Plata County area. He will be one of three nonlawyers to serve on the seven-member commission. "Colin is a great choice for the Commission," Owens said at the time.

How true. Campbell, who lives in Ignacio and is the son of Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, knows a lot about the legal system in his part of the state. After all, a judge issued a restraining order against Colin in November 1998 after he and his mom, Linda, got into an argument over ditch rights with neighbor James Nall. Colin appealed the decision, saying it was overly broad, but Sixth District Judge David Dickinson ruled in November 1999 that the now-thirty-year-old Campbell's actions constituted "an assault or threat of bodily harm." Campbell said he never threatened Nall with bodily harm, but he did admit to cussing and insulting him.

So will the young Campbell's experience with the courts affect his judgment when judging judges?

Probably, says Sherry Patten, the spokeswoman for the state's judicial branch. "If you think about it, anyone who gets a speeding ticket or a divorce, having been a part of the judicial process makes them better at choosing judges. Whether they've had a good experience or a bad one, they will know what they think makes a good judge and what makes a bad one."

Dickinson, a Durango attorney, became a judge in late 1998 after the nominating commission -- the one on which Campbell now sits -- selected him as one of three candidates for the job, and then-governor Roy Romer confirmed him. But even if Campbell wanted to get back at Dickinson for ruling against him in the Nall case, there is probably no way he could, Patten says, since he doesn't serve on the committee that will review Dickinson's performance and decide whether to recommend to voters that he be retained or dismissed in this November's election.

A Republican like both his father and his father-in-law (in a display of true partisan spirit, Colin married Senator Wayne Allard's daughter Karen two years ago), Colin also works for his dad's jewelry business. In 1998, Colin and Karen each donated $500 to Owens's gubernatorial campaign -- about the cost of one of Senator Campbell's multi-animal sterling-silver bracelets, which feature buffalo, ram, elk, bear, eagle, cougar and deer.

Patten says such cozy connections aren't a problem, since no more than four people from one political party may serve on a judicial nominating commission, and four of its members are jointly appointed by the governor, the attorney general and the chief justice. "It's meant to be as nonpartisan as possible in order to give it a balanced approach. It's as fair as it can be." Patten points out that when Romer sat in the governor's mansion, he actually appointed one of his own sons to a judicial nominating commission.

But, she says, "sometimes the districts only have a few people willing to serve on the commissions, so appointments aren't always just based on politics...although many of them are."

The thin blue line: Jeffco sheriff John P. Stone may not be too speedy at releasing documents to anyone other than Time magazine -- the sheriff's yet-to-be-completed Columbine opus is at eleven months and counting -- but he's a trendsetter all the same. Shortly after the then-county commissioner was elected sheriff in November 1998, Stone changed the name of his charge from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office -- because it just sounded better. And soon the sheriff's sixty cars were looking better, too: with black lettering outlined in reflective gold, rather than the standard blue-and-gold scheme recommended for sheriff's departments by the official sheriffs' association in Colorado. But then, Jeffco's is no longer a sheriff's "department."

No, it's a wired, wild "office," and the revamped cars even bear the Web address

In case you're not operating a laptop at the same time you're operating your vehicle, here's what you'll find at the site, which is several years old, according to Jeffco spokesman Steve Davis, but nevertheless still under construction: an account of the slain officers honored at the Sheriff's Memorial, updates on recruitment openings, information on how to get to the Jeffco jail, and the Sheriff's Vision Statement: "...through integrity, innovation, and enthusiasm, we anticipate and meet the challenges of an increasingly complex society and build superior community partnerships with the citizens of Jefferson County to enhance quality of life."

One thing they won't learn about at the site, however, is the Columbine High School shootings, and Davis says it will probably remain that way. "There is so much material on Columbine that it would take up too much space on our site," he says. "We had talked about putting the final report up on the site, but I'm hearing now that it would take up too much space as well."

(At least the Boulder County Sheriff's Department has for several years carried the message: "The Boulder County Sheriff's Department is not the agency investigating the Ramsey homicide. That case is being investigated by the City of Boulder Police Department" -- along with a helpful link to the department site and its 72 JonBenét Ramsey updates.)

There's also no mention on of the recall-Stone effort being led by the parents of former Columbine student Brooks Brown, who complained to the sheriff's office about threats made against their son on Eric Harris's Web site more than a year before the Columbine shootings -- complaints that went nowhere after a deputy wrote down the wrong Internet address.

The Recall Sheriff Stone Committee has its own (barely there) Web site,, and its own mission statement: "Let us make it clear that we do not hate John Stone," it reads. "We simply believe that he is not a competent sheriff...Our first priority as Jefferson County residents should be to recall Sheriff Stone and elect an experienced policeman for his job, not another politician. We need to ensure that the brave deputies who serve our families have skilled management and leadership."

The next meeting of the committee is on March 23, according to the hotline number available at the site. Attendees may want to be on the lookout for circling -- and well-identified -- patrol cars.

If you have a tip, call Jonathan Shikes at 303-293-3555, send a fax to 303-296-5416, or e-mail [email protected].

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes

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