|Forum: Dist. 2 Supervisor candidates|
Candidates for Yuma County Board of Supervisors, Dist. 2, shared their views with voters during Yuma Sun's candidate forum at Booth Machinery on Oct. 9th.
|Forum: Yuma County Sheriff candidates|
Candidates for Yuma County Sheriff, shared their views with voters during Yuma Sun's candidate forum at Booth Machinery on Oct. 9th.
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The law-breaking allegation from Rick Sandoval against opponent Leon Wilmot wasn't ignored at Tuesday's forum for the Yuma County Sheriff hopefuls.
The forum started with each candidate addressing the issue after introductions and before heading into the questions and answers — a slight deviation from going straight to the Q&A — and neither changing their tune about an alleged violation of the Hatch Act, a federal law that bars people whose salary is partially or fully funded by federal money from running for partisan office.
It's Sandoval's contention that Wilmot violated the Hatch Act because he was the chief deputy at the Yuma County Sheriff's Office when he started his campaign.
The men summarized their positions: Sandoval, a 37-year law enforcement veteran and former supervisor with the Department of Homeland Security in El Centro, said he retired earlier than planned so he could run for sheriff without violating the law; Wilmot said that he is not in violation, and that he and current Sheriff Ralph Ogden spoke about it some time ago before determining that he would not break the law by running while employed as the chief deputy.
Wilmot, a 27-year-veteran of YCSO, retired Sept. 30. He said he was told by a representative of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the agency that received Sandoval's complaint, that with his retirement, the case was closed.
Sandoval rebuffed that, saying that a case cannot be closed until a report is written and referred for decision.
“They do not close investigations on the phone,” he said. “Besides that there is an active investigation, there's clear violation and that will all come out.”
“At least that's what I was told over the phone from the Office of Special Counsel, because I in fact had retired, so that they were no longer going to pursue any kind of investigation with Yuma County,” Wilmot replied.
After that, the discussion turned to more common sheriff operations and responsibilities: budgets, staffing and coverage, and interagency partnerships.
The sheriff candidates started out with another hot topic: SB1070, Arizona's new immigration law.
Rather than say the law is “good” or bad,” they said that as police they'd have to enforce it.
In talking about partnerships with federal and other area law enforcement agencies, both said they're necessary. Wilmot said these relationships are already strong.
“Bottom line is, you have to partner with these other agencies because nobody's budget has enough money to be able to afford everything that you could possibly need in regards to training your officers,” he said.
In a related vein, the biggest obstacle for the sheriff's office is the economy and the need for more resources, Sandoval said, and that the office could reach out more to federal agencies.
Both agreed that it would be better to hire more officers rather than give raises, if given the choice.
And as for improvement, Sandoval said he would make a holistic analysis of YCSO.
“I support and applaud their services. However I think there's always, in any kind of operation, there's room for improvement,” he said.
BOARD OF SUPS, DIST 2
The forum, the last of a series of forums hosted by the Yuma Sun, also featured the candidates for District 2 of the Yuma County Board of Supervisors.
Russell McCloud and Dan Dawson, the candidates for the District 2 seat, agreed on more topics than they didn't.
McCloud, the Republican incumbent, works at his family business, but said his door is always open to constituents and people know that — and that county matters will take his priority if need be. Dawson, the Democrat challenger, said supervisors should dedicate all their working time to county business. And McCloud said the greatest challenge facing his district is managing growth — land use planning is a big part of the Supervisors' responsibility. Dawson said the big challenge is employment.
Otherwise, their ideas were generally not far apart.
Dawson said the county needs to work well with the city, and he suggested they share some office spaces. McCloud said the county has a strong relationship with the city, and works well with all of the towns.
“You have to remember, every city resident is a county resident” as well, he said.
On the matter of improving county roads, both said the county needs to get its Highway User Revenue Fund dollars back from the state, which has swept the pot to balance its budget.
For a young constituent's question about their favorite and least favorite things about Yuma, McCloud said Yuma's strength is its people. Dawson said he enjoys recreation like star-gazing and rockhounding. Both said the not-so-good part is the heat.
On the benefits of solar power and the installation of plants, McCloud said the county is currently working on identifying preferred areas, where it will be easier to get a plant going. But not everything is sunny about solar, he said: The jobs are not permanent, and he's bothered by the idea of putting the panels on good agricultural land.
Similarly, “I would prefer to see the farm lands stay as farms,” Dawson said, although he wouldn't want the property owners' desired use to be restricted on their behalf.