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.
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.
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.
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.