As scandals go, Sheriff Duke Schirard’s sending a few emails making fun of Democrats and President Obama to his staff is closer to using the wrong fork than Watergate.
Nonetheless, using official computer or telephones for personal business is a bad habit for elected officials to get into. It too easily can slide into using public resources to campaign, which is serious. Beyond that, this kind of faux controversy is a distraction from what should be a more interesting and substantive discussion.
As reported June 29, an anonymous individual – it was not Schirard’s opponent, Sean Smith – alerted the Herald to 10 emails Schirard had sent his staff over the past two years. Six of them related to enforcing Colorado’s new gun laws and news stories about gun policies, which is legitimate.
Four others were more questionable. They included a cartoon and videos mocking Obama and other national-level Democrats, as well as a quotation from controversial Arizona sheriff, Joe Arpaio. None were obscene, and, except politically, none were particularly offensive.
Still, sending them to his staff was improper. Schirard has a right to his political opinions, but they are just that: his opinions. Expressing them by way of public resources is inappropriate – especially to subordinates who really cannot talk back.
That no one complained is beside the point. People are reluctant to complain about the boss to the boss – particularly in a quasi-military organization, such as the Sheriff’s Office.
That said, as Schirard pointed out, they could just hit delete. And on that level, this remains more silly than scandalous. Should Schirard have sent those emails? No. Is it, in itself, a big deal that he did? No.
Duke Schirard has been sheriff for 20 years. He has to have enacted some policy or made some substantive decisions that can be disputed or that Sean Smith would have handled differently. Why not talk about those instead?