Supporters for Sheriff Glenn Hamilton claim he’s upholding the Constitution and detractors don’t know the law

by Kathleen Sloan | June 16, 2020
4 min read
​Ten letters of support for Sheriff Glenn Hamilton were read into the record during the Sierra County Commissioner’s meeting on June 16, many proclaiming he was doing his job to uphold the U.S. Constitution. 

The letters countered several letters read into the record at the May 19 County Commission meeting. 

Hamilton was criticized for deputizing about 20 parishioners at the New Hope Revival Church en masse on May 3, captured on video by the church and spread by the church on social media.  

Hamilton spoke at the pulpit. He criticized the Governor’s executive order closing businesses and churches and her successful push to pass the recent “red flag” gun-control law. The church gathering violated the Governor’s order at the time. 

Without stating Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham was violating the U.S. Constitution, Hamilton told parishioners the Second Amendment guaranteed their right to form a militia and to keep and bear arms, pointing to his own weapon.

Hamilton also addressed the First Amendment right to freedom of religion.  

The letters not only criticized Hamilton for his May 3 deputization of church members, but also his promoting and participating in the “Cowboys for Trump” rally on May 17. The rally started at the County Fair Grounds and ended up at the New Hope Revival Church. 

In a tent on church grounds Hamilton again mass-deputized rally attendants, caught on video and spread on social media. 

Hamilton, at the County Commission May 19 meeting, said the deputization doesn’t take effect until he calls the special deputy to duty, claiming it was a “symbolic” gesture until then. But on video, that qualification was not stated. 

The mixture of Hamilton soliciting deputies among armed militia from Albuquerque, pro-gun church goers and anti-Democrat Cowboys for Trump supporters, most of it captured on video, spread alarm on social media that went nationwide. 

Mike Skidmore submitted a letter in favor of Hamilton, read during the June 16 meeting. He calls for Truth or Consequences Mayor Pro-Tem Brendan Tolley to resign in response to Tolley’s May 19 letter calling for Hamilton’s resignation. 

Hamilton showed “a preference for a religious organization” by deputizing its flock, and preference is “something an elected official should avoid,” Tolley said

Tolley said Hamilton showed a political preference in his promotion of Cowboys for Trump, the rally being “blatantly political.” 

Tolley called the rally a “despicable event” because “onlookers received threats while guns were brandished,” one of the rally speakers (Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin) said, “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” 

Tolley also said Hamilton “incited public disobedience” and “disregard for legal authority,” calling for his resignation because he had demonstrated “he was no longer capable of enforcing the law equitably.” 

Skidmore said Tolley couldn’t be equitable because he wasn’t “serving rally participants” and should resign. Skidmore claimed all but 30 of the 400 rally-goers were local, a large number of Tolley’s constituents. 

“The letters written to the county commission attacking our sheriff reveal a woeful lack of knowledge of the law,” Skidmore wrote. “It is especially troubling that the mayor pro tem of our city (Tolley) should be so ignorant of the law!” 

Skidmore cites a U.S. Supreme Court case, Malbury vs. Madison, which “ruled any law that contradicts the constitution is null and void and therefore illegal.” 

But Skidmore, in defense of Hamilton, goes farther than Hamilton has gone in his statements. In two interviews with the Sierra County Sun Hamilton has stated “there is no doubt the Governor has the authority” to pass executive orders to preserve the health of the people during a pandemic. 

The U.S. Supreme Court, in numerous rulings, has upheld the state’s right to exercise extraordinary powers to protect the public’s health. The most recent came the first week of May 2020. It upheld the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that in turn upheld Governor Tom Wolf’s executive order closing businesses and entities that were not life sustaining. 

The businesses claimed the executive order amounted to an unconstitutional taking and violated equal protection and free speech rights, but their arguments were denied. 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court said the governor has the power to pass and enforce executive orders contradictory to the constitution to protect the public’s health during a pandemic. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the businesses’ appeal and upheld the lower court ruling.

Therefore Skidmore’s claim that all who oppose his views are “ignorant of the law,” which include Hamilton, letter writers and Tolley, does not hold.  

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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