Yuma County leaders voice concerns with DA

(Editor’s Note: Presented below is from the minutes of last week’s meeting of the Yuma County Board of Commissioners. The Pioneer has added some of its own wording.)
The Yuma County Commissioners and local law enforcement met with 13th Judicial District Attorney Travis Sides to discuss the 2022 budget request and office updates, during last week’s regular commissioners meeting.

Besides commissioners Trent Bushner, Robin Wiley and Scott Weaver, also inn attendance were Yuma County Sheriff Todd Combs, Undersheriff Larry Gilliland, Patrol Sergeant Matt Allacher, and Wray Police Chief Kevin White.
DA Sides, who was elected in the November 2020 election, presented an outline of the current status and goals of his office and answered questions on operations, negotiations, and strategies.
Sheriff Combs presented concerns related to the prosecution of recent cases and challenges created in local law enforcement as a result of the local prosecution styles and decisions. Also discussed by Sheriff Combs were concerns over lack of communication and cooperation between local law enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office.
Sides shared challenges within his office, primarily surrounding staffing turnover and lack of experience in the current prosecution team.
Chief White was also heard to express concerns over the disposition of cases brought by Wray PD.
The group agreed on the criticality of communication and partnership in the local enforcement of the law. The Commissioners inquired of Sheriff Combs what benchmarks and improvements are needed to support the requested increase in funding. Combs suggested that the plea bargains being offered are, in his opinion, not strong enough based on the cases to which they apply and reported that he would more closely monitor the disposition of the cases brought forward by his deputies. Combs also offered a suggested timeline of six months for Sides to address and resolve the presented issues.
Chairman Bushner expressed his concern that local law enforcement is reporting that they are not receiving the services and support that they need from the District Attorney’s Office, and suggested that resolution of the local law enforcement issues is critical for Yuma County to support the increased funding request. Commissioners Weaver and Wiley expressed their expectation of improved communication and cooperation with local law enforcement.
Undersheriff Gilliland expressed his frustration with the perceived transition of the relationship from collaborative to confrontational over the preceding couple of years, and provided examples of the disconnect in communication between prior stages of his career and what is being experienced today. Gilliland highlighted the importance to him in returning to a cooperative relationship.
Commissioner Weaver suggested the provision of a quarterly report from the District Attorney’s Office to Sheriff Combs regarding office statistics and case dispositions to improve accountability for the funding provided. Also suggested was at least an annual meeting between Sides and the Commissioners to maintain open lines of communication.
Commissioner Wiley moved to approve the increased budget request for the District Attorney for 2022 for the first six months as recommended by Sheriff Todd Combs with any further increased payment being subject to revaluation and report of improved performance in consultation with Sheriff Combs. Commissioner Weaver seconded the motion. It passed with Commissioners Bushner and Wiley voting in the affirmative and Commissioner Weaver voting in the negative.