Sheriff  Glenn Hamilton walks constitutional line on businesses defying Governor’s order

by Kathleen Sloan | April 29, 2020
4 min read
Sheriff Glenn Hamilton, in his report to the County Commission last week, said he was helping State Police investigate non-essential businesses accused of defying Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s order to stay closed during the coronavirus pandemic—that is, he and his deputies are helping the State Police to enforce the Governor’s order. 

​Yet some days before, Hamilton appeared to be willing to help businesses defy the order, given a post on Sierra County NM Square’s Facebook page: 

“Bernie, as the ‘Chief’ Law Enforcement Officer in Sierra County, I am prepared to step in and protect any citizen within Sierra County against un-Constitutional edicts and forced compliance of unlawful and un-Constitutional executive orders issued by either the federal government and/or the state government. I first have to have those businesses or institutions refuse to comply with these orders before I can stop the enforcement thereof. Many of the business owners, who have been labeled un-necessary or non-essential, have gone like sheep to slaughter and refused to question or resist these over-reaching and un-Constitutional demands. Believe me when I say I am ready and willing to become the line of defense between the citizen and an oppressive government official. This is from Sheriff Glenn Hamilton, Sierra County, New Mexico.”

Hamilton cleared up the confusion in an April 27 interview with the Sierra County Sun. 

“I would not stand between the State Police and a business owner who has taken it upon himself to disobey the order—for whatever enforcement action the law would allow, such as a citation,” Hamilton said. 

Hamilton said the Governor’s executive order can only be enforced by the State Police and Department of Health. However, the Department of Health has not promulgated civil laws on the Public Health Act, therefore the State Police is effectively the Governor’s only enforcement arm. 

When the Governor’s April 6 order was put in effect, the State Police would first make a phone call to non-essential businesses accused of defying the order, “and ask them to stay closed,” Hamilton said. 

If a second complaint was made, then the State Police would go to the business for “a face-to-face,” verbally ordering them to “cease and desist,” Hamilton said.

If a third complaint was made, then the State Police would decide whether to issue a written citation “under State Law 24-1-21,” Hamilton said, which is the Public Health Act. 

“Any violation of the Public Health Act is a petty misdemeanor punishable by a $100 fine or six months in jail or both,” Hamilton said. 

The person accused must be given a hearing before they can be cited a second time, Hamilton said. 

The current practice of the State Police, however, has now been stepped up to a face-to-face call and investigation at the first-complaint stage, Hamilton said. 

State Police Captain Tim Johnson asked local sheriffs to help with the face-to-face calls and investigations, since it would “be taken better,” Hamilton said, if the officer is known to the business owner.  

Hamilton said he and “local businesses and churches have heard unverified stories” that State Police are showing up at these face-to-face first calls and ordering owners “to chain and shutter their businesses.” 

“The Fourth Amendment has not been suspended yet, and that would be a seizure,” Hamilton said. 

Once a business owner goes to hearing on a violation of the Public Health Act and is found guilty, and still doesn’t comply, Hamilton said then the State Police could seek a court order to chain and shutter a business or a restraining order from the Attorney General. 

“I will stand with business owners and church leaders if they try to shutter their businesses and churches without the proper warrants and court orders,” Hamilton said. 

Hamilton pointed out that the Governor has deemed gun stores non-essential businesses, although the federal government has said they are protected under the Second Amendment and should remain open. 

“But the Tenth Amendment says the federal government can’t tell the states what to do,” Hamilton said, therefore gun stores are in the same boat as other businesses deemed non-essential.

“When the federal government said gun stores are constitutionally protected, the Governor said, ‘not in my state they’re not,’” Hamilton said. 

“This has caused public animus,” Hamilton said. “Second Amendment advocates feel it is punitive.”

“It’s the same with Walmart,” Hamilton said. “They’re selling clothes and shoes while clothing and shoe stores are deemed non-essential. The law is not being applied equitably.”  

Locally the two store-front gun stores, one in Elephant Butte and one in Truth or Consequences, have both shut their doors. The Elephant Butte gun store is still selling online, Hamilton said, but would like to offer road-side service; however, it is obeying the order. 

The only cease-and-desist verbal order given locally by State Police was to Pipes and More in Truth or Consequences. They have since gotten State permission to operate, since they sell the apparatuses needed to ingest medical marijuana. The business therefore was allowed to reopen. 

An informal estimate, based on businesses communicating with Sierra County, TorC Rotary and the Sheriff’s Department, Hamilton said, “is that one-third of the businesses in the area will not open again if this goes on for two more weeks.” 

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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