Former County Attorney alleges corruption of former officials

False letters, hidden settlements, personal agendas: it’s all in a notice of claim filed by former La Paz County Attorney Glenn Buckelew, who alleges corruption on the part of his former colleagues.

Buckelew filed the notice of claim for what he says was wrongful termination, which he says came after he had been looking into corrupt and illegal practices involving former County officials.

Buckelew’s accusations of “sordid behavior, corruption, self dealing and [abuse]” focus largely on a few people: former County Administrator Dan Field and his wife, former Chief Public Defender Kathy Field, along with high-ranking Sheriff’s official Larry Irwin, the husband of Supervisor Holly Irwin, and former Supervisor and later Sheriff John Drum.

“These individuals,” his attorney writes, “collaborated to further each others’ personal, political and financial agendas to extract inappropriate and illegal benefits from the La Paz County taxpayers.”

Buckelew then sets out several examples of the behavior he is referring to.

Power grab

He says that Dan Field amassed “almost all administrative power in La Paz County”, becoming County Administrator, Clerk of the Board of Supervisors and Acting Finance Director, and that, “in those roles he controlled matters before the Board and as well as the County finances. When finance department employees began [to] question the propriety of Field’s activities, Field called on Sheriff Drum to open an investigation. Drum assigned [Larry] Irwin … to handle the investigation and intimidate the finance employees.”

False letter

Irwin, who is still with the Sheriff’s Department, was an investigator with the department back when Don Lowery was elected Sheriff. According to Buckelew’s claim, Lowery had decided to reassign Irwin to a patrol position, and the Irwins appealed to County Administrator Dan Field.

“Field obliged the Irwins by surreptitiously authoring a ‘whistleblowing’ document for Larry Irwin,” the claim reads. “The letter was a sham. Field then publicly announced that he had ‘received’ a whistleblowing letter from Irwin and that La Paz County needed to protect Irwin. Field recommended the Board of Supervisors create a new (and completely unnecessary) law enforcement position within the County Parks Department. The position (Certified Chief Park Ranger) was created and Larry Irwin was appointed to fill it.”

The claim goes on to say that the appointment of Irwin as Park Ranger generated public outcry, because Field refused to release Irwin’s whistleblower letter.

“The La Paz County Deputies Association (LPCDA) filed a public records request for the letter. Field refused to produce the letter and LPCDA filed suit. Field understood that his sham would be exposed if the County Attorney’s Office or hired outside counsel defended the case. La Paz County, however, was part of, and insured through, a shared county ‘risk-pool’ known as ACIP. Field sat on ACIP’s board. The actual ACIP insuring documentary did not provide coverage for defense of public records lawsuits. Nevertheless, at Field’s urging ACIP assigned a lawyer to defend Field. As the legal bills came in, Field passed them off as garden variety ACIP defense bills and submitted them to the County for payment. Using ACIP as a conduit, Field circumvented oversight and used the County to pay what we were essentially personal legal fees,” the notice says.

Moving chairs

Buckelew claims that when John Drum was elected Sheriff, he, the Irwins and Fields “worked significant changes to La Paz County for their own personal benefit,” including another new position and salary increase for Larry Irwin, and appointing Kathy Field as Chief Public Defender. The notice claims that Kathy was “completely unqualified” for the position and that the County had to hire a “special consultant” to train her.

Settlements in secret

Other examples of corruption cited by Buckelew include his claim that Dan Field hid a monetary settlement that would make Sheriff Drum look bad during his re-election campaign. An inmate called Jesse Flores had been able to commit suicide while in custody, and the County’s settlement with his family should have apparently been approved by the Board of Supervisors in a public meeting that included public comment, but Field allegedly withheld it from the Board to protect Drum.

Private lawyer, public expense

A further example involves the allegation that Larry Irwin, after harassing a woman in a hardware store, “was given a free lawyer [to defend him] at taxpayers’ expense.” Buckelew says that Field used the County to pay over $18,000 in Irwin’s personal legal fees, passing the bills off as “garden variety ACIP defense bills and [submitting] them to the County for payment.”

Embarrassing termination

Buckelew also took issue with the way his employment was terminated. He claims that as he began to uncover the misconduct described in his notice, it made authorities uncomfortable, and that ultimately, the discomfort was the reason County Attorney Tony Rogers terminated his employment.

His attorney describes the scene created last summer when Buckelew became irate about something in the County Attorney’s office, refused to go home when asked by Chief Deputy County Attorney Karen Hobbs, and eventually was led out by a Sheriff’s deputy at the instruction of Sheriff Bill Risen in front of all his coworkers, who had been evacuated from the building. Buckelew says Rogers fired him after the incident, telling him the reason for his termination was that staff feared for their personal safety.

$350,000

The notice of claim finishes by saying that Buckelew would accept $350,000 from the County to settle his claims. ACIP would likely pay a portion of any settlement made, and will act on behalf of the County in the case.

John Drum was defeated in his re-election bid by Risen in the 2016 Republican primary. Dan and Kathy Field’s employments were both terminated by the Board of Supervisors at the end of 2016 and in May 2017. Kathy filed a notice of claim for almost a million dollars, citing wrongful termination. She reportedly received a settlement of $42,000. Larry Irwin still works at the Sheriff’s Department.

43 comments

  1. For many years, I tried to call attention to this, best I could do was sit outside the County Attorney office for a full year and exercise my freedom of speech. Our family had personal experience with Larry Irwin, but his actions only resulted in a letter from us to his personnel file. Politically incestuous!!

  2. Paula Hunter

    Weve been saying this for years. What a tool. Isnt Larry now collecting money for an on the job injury? Of course.

  3. Paula Hunter

    Weve been saying this for years. Larry Irwin even attempted to intimidate us. What a tool. Isnt Larry now collecting money for an on the job injury? Of course.

  4. Dusty Wooddell

    It’ll take an entirely new generation of officials before anything changes around here.

  5. Dusty Wooddell

    It’ll take an entirely new generation of officials before anything changes around here.

  6. Drain the swamp. I always wondered why an attorney needed to work at Walmart!!! I still don’t get it but never trusted her then.

  7. Jose Moreno

    Nothing but the truth here.. this has been a known fact for many years.

  8. Jose Moreno

    Nothing but the truth here.. this has been a known fact for many years.

  9. Nothing but corruption down there!!! There are a few good people trying to do the right thing, I have no complaints and I am very thankful for what Risen did for me as I was a victim to Irwin’s and Drum’s corruption. As for their followers they are cowards for not standing up for what is right. From what I understand Risen has made some changes however he made one grave mistake by not taking out the trash, Irwin. I am sure Irwin has done nothing but undermine any and all of Risen’s efforts. As far as the collecting money for an on the job injury goes, don’t you have to be on duty and working? Correct me if I have the wrong scenario here but if you’re off duty and decide to help someone get their vehicle un-stuck and hurt yourself in the process how is that being on duty? Or are you all of the sudden on the clock as soon as your injured simply because your employed by the county? Set that aside let’s just go with being fit for duty?

  10. Rhea Clapperton

    WE have all been saying this for years, what took so long.

  11. Kenneth Edward Huffman

    Is anyone really surprised by this?
    Known fact for years

  12. Kenneth Edward Huffman

    Is anyone really surprised by this?
    Known fact for years

  13. Laurie Tomasino

    Welcome to the United States!

  14. Laurie Tomasino

    Welcome to the United States!

  15. And let’s not forget how they tried to appoint Kathy Field to County Treasurer in 2010. That would have locked up all finances. Dan almost had a stroke when we made public the near bankruptcy right before the election in 2016. The five of them should be in jail. I hope Glenn gets a good settlement. He was instrumental in getting rid of at least 2. Unfortunately 2 still remain.

  16. Well Now…we finally got us a story. Drain the swamp!

  17. Well how about that more money was spent on idiots for dumb stuff while the family of Jesse Flores gets a bag of peanuts. Not that money would bring him back but just the simple fact that it could of been prevented.

  18. I remember that time well, Mary Baptista. I went to your office and asked about the county’s finances because George Nault was claiming everything was fine and that Duce was just lying about the county being broke. What I found were two very worried treasurer office employees saying they didn’t know if they would make payroll the next week. I had no idea about the plan to appoint Kathy to County Treasurer, but you’re right–that would’ve completely covered their asses. If George Nault was elected we’d probably still be dealing with this mess. Hopefully that $42,000 we paid out to Kathy Field for her frivolous lawsuit is the last red cent from La
    Paz County that ever goes into the Fields’ pockets.

  19. For the record, Holly Irwin voted NO to appointing Kathy Field to the position of Treasurer. The Supervisors at the time were Sandy Pierce, John Drum and Holly Irwin. Sandy and Holly voted no.

  20. Judy Cook

    Something they done for years and they get away with it it will never stop

  21. Judy Cook

    Something they done for years and they get away with it it will never stop

  22. Shelly Baker that was due to your intervention. Remember?

  23. I remember, but it was ultimately Holly’s decision.

  24. Jamie Heupel

    Throwing stones from glass houses

  25. Jamie Heupel

    Throwing stones from glass houses

  26. Gil Harper

    Throwing a stone Orchard to La Paz County Recorder Shelly Baker.
    Since when is the local EXTREME Right Wing KLIPS a platform for you during county time to express your loyalty to the POTUS and the right way of thinking? Aren’t you booked on the station to report and assist member of the county? Yes we know you don’t like Obama and are in favor of a non-exisiting fence and you don’t like living in an impoverished community. I don’t tune in to hear your views on how the left is ruining America. Do your job and leave YOUR political views to yourself unless you go on as an individual not as a County employee.

  27. Gil Harper

    Throwing a stone Orchard to La Paz County Recorder Shelly Baker.
    Since when is the local EXTREME Right Wing KLIPS a platform for you during county time to express your loyalty to the POTUS and the right way of thinking? Aren’t you booked on the station to report and assist member of the county? Yes we know you don’t like Obama and are in favor of a non-exisiting fence and you don’t like living in an impoverished community. I don’t tune in to hear your views on how the left is ruining America. Do your job and leave YOUR political views to yourself unless you go on as an individual not as a County employee.

  28. Gil Harper: Thanks for listening! lol

  29. Wow, I’m surprised that this stuff is finally being addressed, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

  30. Candi Evans-Alauria

    So much easier to blame others for your drinking problem. Bet your counselor is shaking their head.

  31. Candi Evans-Alauria

    So much easier to blame others for your drinking problem. Bet your counselor is shaking their head.

  32. VTBO! VOTE THE BUMS OUT! CLEAN SWEEP!

  33. Dorothy Buckelew

    Proud that my cousin Glen is standing up for transparency and accountability!

  34. All the years of complaints and picketing by that crazy lady never got so much as a peep from our local investgative reporter and local printed rag.

  35. The la Paz county probation dept should be looked at especially under Jon Diesss.

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