The dispute between Sheriff Glenn Palmer and the Court, headed by Judge Webb, has its roots in conflicts spawned long before Mark Webb stepped forward to serve Grant County. There was dissention between the sheriff and the previous judge as well.
During the election, the sheriff took a political position against Webb, while promoting votes for a member of his own posse, Dave Traylor. That seemed a bit awkward - to be establishing a climate of contention with the man who may (and did) become an important associate as our new judge. One would have thought the sheriff would show his respect for the voters and publicly acknowledge Judge Webb by extending a hand of cooperation in the spirit of serving the county. That did not happen.
Rather, since Judge Webb took office, it appears that there has been an orchestrated effort to thwart the progress of the court and frustrate the efforts to communicate with the sheriff regarding their differences. Why? Citizens all over this county have been murmuring, "Come on, gentlemen, make up and get on with it!" This should not be a battle of wills; this should be a relationship of cooperation - a win-win for both county sheriff and county judge - benefiting all of us.
One major issue has been over the funding of the Emergency Management Services position. The judge called the sheriff to meet with him. Seemed reasonable. When the sheriff finally agreed to do so, it was reported that 50 people showed up, many identified as posse members - now how conducive to solving differences was that? There was mention of implied threats made towards our judge. Alarming and very outrageous behavior. It did not sound like there was any intention to come to the table to make peace with Judge Webb; it appeared to be an organized attempt to intimidate him. The following weeks there were hostile guest columns and letters to the editor (attacking Webb) - adding more fuel to the conflict. Now, the editor mentions talk of a recall - What a horrible idea. Among thinking people, that should be a last recourse, not the first.
Certainly, budget woes have been the lightning rod, but the issues between the Sheriff's Office and the judge of the court feel inflated far beyond what seems reasonable. Who is determined to keep things stirred up between these two elected officials, and why?
We keep hearing language elevating the power of the county sheriff position. This rings eerily familiar with the beliefs of ultra right-wing groups reportedly operating in America and espousing county sheriffs as the only authority of the land. Some say this doctrine originates with a group known as Posse Comitatus. Radical groups similar to Posse Comitatis are militia-minded, anti-tax, and anti-federal government. Current voices inflaming the relationship between our sheriff and our judge are sounding a little uncomfortable. There may be something more ominous underfoot here than rattlesnakes, and Grant County citizens should stop, listen hard and give full attention to what is going on among us.
The point is that no one should feel comfortable with any one county official holding excessive power. That is why it is a good idea to have separation of power, with accountability for county budgets separate from law enforcement. Checks and balances protect our freedoms. It would seem wise to put the responsibility for soliciting funding in the administrative offices of the court and let the sheriff do what we elected him to do - the full-time work of serving and protecting us. The posse should never give the appearance of becoming a political strong-arm; it is a service organization with a mission to search and rescue, and assist the sheriff, period.
Glenn Palmer and Mark Webb should come together. They have both been entrusted by the people of Grant County, and they have more in common (in their proclaimed personal belief systems) than not. Leave the posse home, rein in the voices that claw at the wounds of dissention and do the right thing - work with the man across the table from you.
Kay Scheurer lives in Ritter.