Sierra County Commissioner Luna criticized for “persecuting” Sheriff Glenn Hamilton

by Kathleen Sloan | June 17, 2020
4 min read
​Recent actions by Sheriff Glenn Hamilton have triggered a strong reaction from the community. 

Last month several letters criticizing Hamilton were read into the record at the Sierra County Commission May 19 meeting. 

In distinct contrast, at the June 16 meeting, public response applauded Hamilton’s participation in and deputizing of “Cowboys for Trump” rally attendees May 17, as well as his mass deputization of New Hope Revival churchgoers May 3.  

Most of the letters said Hamilton was one of the few bulwarks preventing further erosion of constitutional rights and assumed Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s executive orders during the COVID-19 pandemic violated the constitution.  

There were 10 letters read into the record supporting Hamilton.  

Four of the 10 letters meted out criticism to County Commissioner Frances Luna, who questioned Hamilton during the May 19 County Commission meeting. A fifth letter criticized the whole County Commission’s treatment of Hamilton during the meeting. 

The County Commission handles lawsuits and the questions were in preparation for an executive session to follow the meeting in which “pending and threatened litigation” was to be discussed. A letter was sent by the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s attorney. 

The letter said Hamilton violated the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. His actions sought to “not only promote your religious views using your position as sheriff, but to literally share the power of your office exclusively with Christians by making them special deputies with additional rights under the law.”

Citing several U.S. Supreme Court rulings on the Establishment Clause, the letter said the “government cannot in any way promote, advance, or otherwise endorse religion.” 

The County Commission, after executive session, voted unanimously to have County Manager Bruce Swingle meet with the Governor’s office to discuss Hamilton’s actions. 

The letters criticizing Luna and the Commission did not consider the Commission’s duty to respond to threatened litigation. 

Luna said, at the May 19 meeting, “I am scared to death of the legal ramifications.” 

She had seen the videos of the May 3 and May 17 events erupting across social media. The points of view expressed at the church podium and outside the church during the rally were “as radical as far as can be,” she said.  

She feared recruiting among these groups instead of among retired law enforcement was dangerous, since they didn’t “know the rules.” 

Hamilton said he was deputizing among retired law enforcement and non-religious groups, but Luna noted he had no proof; “You also don’t have a list to show people differently.” 

Hamilton is not required by law to report how many or who he has recruited as special deputies. He also does not have to reveal who he has called into active service as a special deputy. 

Jim Leffingwell said, “I find it appalling that the Sierra County Commission has attacked probably the best sheriff this county has ever had. Is the Commission following the footsteps of our ‘illustrious’ Governor, just doing what you feel like regardless of the law?” 

Mary Ann Leffingwell said, “I do not understand how Commissioner Luna thinks she has any authority over an elected official. I also question why the Commission would want a meeting with the Governor. I am appalled at the actions of the Commission at the May 19, 2020 meeting, especially Commissioner Luna.”

Gary Cole said, “I find Ms. Luna’s comparison of deputizing to toilet paper demeaning and offensive . . . Law Enforcement Officers . . .etc., hold that Oath they take a lot more precious than your toilet paper.” 

Tanya Reed cautioned Luna not to be swayed by social-media reactions to videos posted of Sheriff Hamilton, which “do not represent the whole community.”  

Reed said Luna was captured on video attending graduation ceremonies. She was not practicing social distancing or wearing a mask, which could similarly become a “misperception on social media,” and “could cause calls to the Governor.” 

Tammy Lane said she was “appalled” by Luna’s statements toward Hamilton, which “showed disrespect.” Luna meant to “persecute and reprimand him as if she were his superior,” Lane said. Hamilton was standing up for the “First Amendment rights denied to church goers,” and without the intercession of people like him “this will become a socialist nation.” She said Luna had proclaimed herself a Christian but had not acted like one. 

Luna was asked if she wanted to respond to public comment and emailed the following: 

“During the May meeting, I expressed the questions and comments that I heard from numerous constituents of both myself and the Sheriff. While today, we heard from a handful of his supporters, I have never received so many calls with concerns on a single issue as this. Commissioner Day and myself both expressed the concerns relayed to us during that time.

“I believe many support the Sheriff, however, we were concerned with his lack of record keeping, background checks and method of the deputizing.

“We did request a meeting with the governor, to which we never received a response, to my knowledge.”

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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