Public comment on Sheriff Hamilton during County Commission meeting

by Kathleen Sloan | May 22, 2020
8 min read
All six public comments given during the Sierra County Commission meeting on May 19 were critical of Sheriff Glenn Hamilton’s recent actions in deputizing about 20 church members at New Hope Revival Church on May 3, as well as his helping to organize a rally at that same church with Cowboys for Trump on May 17, with attendees also being deputized en masse on church property.

Public comment also concerned a letter sent to Hamilton by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which was discussed as pending or threatened litigation during executive session by the Sierra County Commission. That letter is appended to this article.
Below are the public comments forwarded to the Sierra County Sun.

Dr. Victoria Boynton

The “Cowboys for Trump Rally” Sunday, May 17, 2020 in Truth or Consequences is a threat to our community and the public welfare.

Inviting people to congregate illegally should be reason to dismiss Sheriff Hamilton immediately. Law ENFORCEMENT means upholding the law to protect the public. In the face of the corona virus pandemic, Mr. Hamilton is conspiring to violate safeguards to public health enacted in law.

Mr. Hamilton has invited Cowboys for Trump into TorC, defying the state’s orders. Their poster is inflammatory—literally featuring a picture of flames. Plus, they misspelled “caronavirus” [sic] on their invitation, a careless attitude indicative of the whole mess.

 They will be a defiant force who will put citizens of our town in danger. The law—the real law, not their vigilante law—should stop them.

 It is immoral, cruel, and illegal to spread the virus through refusal to cooperate with the practices that will prevent the contamination of innocent citizens. Right now, it is illegal not to conform to these practices.

Finally, it is a horrible abuse of power for Sheriff Glen Hamilton to deputize church members so that they may defy the law and endanger the entire community. I have a family with grandchildren—I do not want them to be exposed to a potentially deadly disease.

Dennis Dunnum  

I must admit that I feel better about our democracy that SOMEONE has stood up to legally protest what our sheriff has done. I don’t agree that this is a “religious” issue but it is a moral one. I watched his performance video before it was taken down and remember chills running up my back. I could not believe that an elected official (even in the days of Trump) would stand up (in a church no less) with his badge and gun to defy the legal authority of the governor of our state and not only encourage members of this congregation but deputize them to assist in his rebellion.

The regulations put in place by the governor were based on scientific reality to protect the lives of the people of the state from sickness and death from a contagious disease. This has become a politicized nightmare situation with people claiming it offends their rights to congregate and spread disease whether it be in bars or in churches. It disregards the rights to LIFE of those who might likely die if their fellow citizens deliberately ignore that right to life over their right to congregate during a pandemic. 

This is especially egregious here in Sierra County, which has a high percentage of senior citizens second only to Miami/Dade County in Florida and we are the ones most likely to die if we are infected by these self-righteous creeps. Is this how they show respect for their fellow citizens???  If so, how would their precious county survive if we all died or just plain left because the politics of the local government clearly doesn’t care whether we live or die – and are willing to back up that disrespect for legitimate authority as well as our welfare with guns and ammo.  This is a parody of ‘law enforcement.’

If the county commission doesn’t condemn this insanity, then you become part of the problem. Do you actually believe that the authors of the Constitution would defend your actions? If so, you are fools – they were not.  This is an emergency situation and requires cooperation and caring for your fellow citizens. This is NOT politics as usual or we will all die in so many ways. 

D. A. (Dimid) Hayes

I would like to register my concern with the recent actions of Sheriff Glenn Hamilton. By deputizing un-vetted members of a local church he has endangered the general peace and wellbeing of our county. 

While attending a gathering of church members in an assembly (the size of which he publicly admits the Governor has legal jurisdiction to have banned) he sets an example of disregard for the current state health department guidelines temporarily in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The sheriff states he needs additional deputized citizens in case his department should succumb to COVID-19 exposure. To prevent this exposure and to prepare for such a need:

1) He should not be condoning gatherings of more than 10 people.

2) He should publicly announce the need for citizens to step forward for deputation. Then citizens from all corners of the county could volunteer and be vetted in advance. Those passing a vetting process would thereby represent ALL of the citizens of the county, not just a religious minority.

The county can ill-afford a threatened lawsuit by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

I request the commission to instruct the sheriff to de-deputize those previously deputized, put out a general call for deputies, vet those stepping forward and establish law enforcement for the county that is beyond reproach.

The sheriff has also stated the county is nearing a state of civil unrest. By disregarding the general safety of the citizens of Sierra County he has promoted, not quelled, any potential for such unrest. If he is concerned about civil disturbances, he should look no further than the closest mirror.

Deb Nicoll

I am deeply troubled by the recent activities of Sheriff Hamilton while in the uniform of Sierra County Sheriff and thus under the bounds of his oath to office and in representation of the residents of the county. 

It is inappropriate for him to speak of his religious and political views while in uniform. It is entirely inappropriate and a broken oath for him to observe illegal behavior while in uniform and do nothing (i.e., not enforcing the mandated public health emergency act). It is most decidedly inappropriate (and possibly unconstitutional, see article VI) for him to choose to deputize a group of un-vetted people solely because they attended a religious ceremony with him.

I ask the commission to nullify the actions of the sheriff and teach him that he has certain rights as a civilian but also has certain duties as an elected law enforcement officer. When he is in uniform, he is that law enforcement officer and his duties take precedence.

I would also like to ask the commission to see to it that the county website be brought up to date. There is a page to post ordinances and resolutions that have been signed. Nothing has been updated since 2018 in spite of the fact that the commission has signed a number of contentious resolutions. In the interest of transparency, please post all proposed resolutions before meetings and post all signed resolutions in their entirety.

Ariel Dougherty

I stand in opposition to numerous illegal actions taken by Sheriff Glen Hamilton yesterday and in recent weeks. While there has been a great deal of clamor in favor of his actions, and you as Commissioners might personally agree, that does not make them legal or in the best interest of the Sierra County public.

My objections are:

1. Glen Hamilton has violated his oath of office as Sierra County Sheriff. He has failed to uphold the laws of the State of NM, including but not limited to the Governor’s Public Health Emergency Order of March 23, 2020, by assembling with the New Hope Revival Church Service May 3rd while the ban to not be in public groups of five or more was still in effect.

2. He has abused his office as Sheriff. In uniform, before the assembled ministry he spoke in defiance of the Governor’s Public Health Emergency Order. By deputizing some 20 congregants on May 3 and an untold additional number May 17, also at the church, he has crossed the line of enlisting a specified religious group as supposedly special agents with “additional rights under the law.” This is a clear, and aggressive, violation of the separation of church and state.

3. Mr. Hamilton has misused his tax-payer time and truck (on numerous occasions seen at the church) and the power of his office to organize and engage in what are clearly unauthorized acts implying governmental authority has sanctioned such acts.

4. In his position as Sheriff, Glen Hamilton is in violation of NM Section 10-16-3.1 C. Using Public Assets for Political Purposes. He has clearly used his county title, actions and time to support a political viewpoint. (see attached poster). If any federal funds are used in the operation of the County Sheriff’s office he is further violating The Hatch Act.

If there is any incitement to riot, as Sheriff Hamilton has repeatedly claimed, the
incitement is wholly on his part. By amassing a heavily armed crowd in defiance of current state orders, Sheriff Hamilton and his fellow travelers feel they can use weaponry to intimidate. There are many individuals like myself who are horrified by his abuse of his office as a peace officer. We will not stand for such misuse of his powers.

Kathleen Sloan is the Sun’s founder and chief reporter. She can be reached at or 575-297-4146.
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Understanding New Mexico's proposed new social studies standards for K-12 students

“The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”
—National Council for the Social Studies 

Reader Michael L. Hayes of Las Cruces commented: What impresses me is that both the proposed standards and some of the criticisms of them are equally grotesque. I make this bold statement on the basis of my experience as a peripatetic high school and college English teacher for 45 years in many states with many students differing in race, religion, gender and socioeconomic background, and as a civic activist (PTA) in public education (My career, however, was as an independent consultant mainly in defense, energy and the environment.)

The proposed social studies standards are conceptually and instructionally flawed. For starters, a “performance standard” is not a standard at all; it is a task. Asking someone to explain something is not unlike asking someone to water the lawn. Nothing measures the performance, but without a measure, there is no standard. The teacher’s subjective judgment will be all that matters, and almost anything will count as satisfying a “performance standard,” even just trying. Students will be left to wonder “what is on the teacher’s mind?” or “have I sucked up enough.”

Four other quick criticisms of the performance standards. One, they are nearly unintelligible because they are written in jargon. PED’s use of jargon in a document intended for the public is worrisome. Bureaucrats often use jargon to confuse or conceal something uninformed, wrong or unworthy. As a result, most parents, some school board members and more than a few teachers do not understand them.

Two, the performance standards are so vague that they fail to define the education which teachers are supposed to teach, students are supposed to learn, and parents are supposed to understand. PED does not define words like “explain” or “describe” so that teachers can apply “standards” consistently and fairly. The standards do not indicate what teachers are supposed to know in order to teach or specify what students are supposed to learn. Supervisors cannot know whether teachers are teaching social studies well or poorly. The standards are so vague that the public, especially parents or guardians, cannot know the content of public education.

Three, many performance standards are simply unrealistic, especially at grade level. Under “Ethnic, Cultural and Identity Performance Standards”; then under “Diversity and Identity”; then under “Kindergarten,” one such standard is: “Identify how their family does things both the same as and different from how other people do things.” Do six-year-olds know how other people do things? Do they know whether these things are relevant to diversity and identity? Or another standard: “Describe their family history, culture, and past to current contributions of people in their main identity groups.” (A proficient writer would have hyphenated the compound adjective to avoid confusing the reader.) Do six-year-olds know so much about these things in relation to their “identity group”? Since teachers obviously do not teach them about these other people and have not taught them about these groups, why are these and similar items in the curriculum; or do teachers assign them to go home and collect this information?

Point four follows from “three”; some information relevant to some performance measures requires a disclosure of personal or family matters. The younger the students, the easier it is for teachers to invade their privacy and not only their privacy, but also the privacy of their parents or guardians, or neighbors, who may never be aware of these disclosures or not become aware of them until afterward. PED has no right to design a curriculum which requires teachers to ask students for information about themselves, parents or guardians, or neighbors, or puts teachers on the spot if the disclosures reveal criminal conduct. (Bill says Jeff’s father plays games in bed with his daughter. Lila says Angelo’s mother gives herself shots in the arm.) Since teacher-student communications have no legal protection to ensure privacy, those disclosures may become public accidentally or deliberately. The effect of these proposal standards is to turn New Mexico schools and teachers into investigative agents of the state and students into little informants or spies.

This PED proposal for social studies standards is a travesty of education despite its appeals to purportedly enlightened principles. It constitutes a clear and present danger to individual liberty and civil liberties. It should be repudiated; its development, investigated; its PED perpetrators, dismissed. No state curriculum should encourage or require the disclosure of private personal information.

I am equally outraged by the comments of some of T or C’s school board members: Christine LaFont and Julianne Stroup, two white Christian women, who belong to one of the larger minorities in America and assume white and Christian privileges. In different terms but for essentially the same reason, both oppose an education which includes lessons about historical events and trends, and social movements and developments, of other minorities. They object to the proposal for the new social studies standards because of its emphasis on individual and group identities not white or Christian. I am not going to reply with specific objections; they are too numerous and too pointed.

Ms. LaFont urges: “It’s better to address what’s similar with all Americans. It’s not good to differentiate.” Ms. Stroup adds: “Our country is not a racist country. We have to teach to respect each other. We have civil rights laws that protect everyone from discrimination. We need to teach civics, love and respect. We need to teach how to be color blind.”

Their desires for unity and homogeneity, and for mutual respect, are a contradiction and an impossibility. Aside from a shared citizenship, which implies acceptance of the Constitution, the rule of law and equality under the law, little else defines Americans. We are additionally defined by our race, religion, national origin, etc. So mutual respect requires individuals to respect others different from themselves. Disrespect desires blacks, Jews or Palestinians to assimilate or to suppress or conceal racial, religious or national origin aspects of their identity. The only people who want erasure of nonwhite, non-Christian, non-American origin aspects of identity are bigots. Ms. LaFont and Ms. Stroud want standards which, by stressing similarities and eliding differences, desire the erasure of such aspects. What they want will result in a social studies curriculum that enables white, Christian, native-born children to grow up to be bigots and all others to be their victims. This would be the academic equivalent of ethnic cleansing.


This postmortem of a case involving a 75-year-old women who went missing from her home in Hillsboro last September sheds light on the bounds of law enforcement’s capacity to respond, especially in large rural jurisdictions such as Sierra County, and underscores the critical role the public, as well as concerned family and friends, can play in assisting a missing person’s search.

Reader Jane Debrott of Hillsboro commented: Thank you for your article on the tragic loss of Betsey. I am a resident of Hillsboro, a friend of Rick and Betsey, and a member of H.E.L.P. The thing that most distresses me now, is the emphasis on Rick’s mis-naming of the color of their car. I fear that this fact will cause Rick to feel that if he had only gotten the facts right, Betsey may have been rescued before it was too late. The incident was a series of unavoidable events, out of everyone’s control, and we will never know what place the correct color of her car may have had in the outcome. It breaks my heart to think that Rick has had one more thing added to his “what ifs” concerning this incident.

Diana Tittle responded: Dear Jane, the Sun undertook this investigation at the request of a Hillsboro resident concerned about the town’s inability to mount a prompt, coordinated response to the disappearance of a neighbor. From the beginning, I shared your concern about how our findings might affect Betsy’s family and friends. After I completed my research and began writing, I weighed each detail I eventually chose to include against my desire to cause no pain and the public’s right to know about the strengths and limitations of law enforcement’s response and the public’s need to know about how to be of meaningful assistance.

There was information I withheld about the state police investigation and the recovery. But I decided to include the issue of the car’s color because the individuals who spotted Betsy’s car emphasized how its color had been key to their identification of it as the vehicle described in Betsy’s Silver Alert. Because the misinformation was corrected within a couple of hours, I also included in this story the following editorial comment meant to put the error in perspective: “The fact that law enforcement throughout the state was on the lookout in the crucial early hours after Betsy’s disappearance for an elderly woman driving a “light blue” instead of a “silver” Accord would, in retrospect, likely not have changed the outcome of the search” [emphasis added].

I would also point to the story’s overarching conclusion about the inadvisability of assigning blame for what happened: “In this case, a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances, many of them beyond human control, hindered the search that it would fall to Hamilton’s department to lead.”

It is my hope that any pain caused by my reporting will eventually be outweighed by its contribution to a better community understanding of what it will take in the future to mount a successful missing person’s search in rural Sierra County.

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