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How is the sheriff in Park County, Colorado allowed to work from Florida?

Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener announced he was retiring, but then kept his job and his taxpayer-funded salary when he headed for Florida five months ago. 9NEWS legal analyst Scott Robinson weighed on whether that’s legal.

The same day that 9NEWS asked Park County commissioners about the absence of Sheriff Fred Wegener, the sheriff was on Facebook asking a Florida fishing group about bass spawning.

Wegener told 9NEWS he went down to Florida in August on vacation and has been “back and forth, handling the day to day issues by e-mail.”

First elected in 1999, Sheriff Wegener did not seek reelection in 2018. He sold his home in late July and resigned in August, but then withdrew his resignation. The sheriff continues to take a paycheck working from Florida while his department of 16 sworn deputies remains the lead investigating agency in the Maggie Long murder case.

Credit: 9NEWS
Park County Sheriff's Office

“If this were the elected dogcatcher, maybe we wouldn’t be quite as concerned, but there are criminal cases to be investigated in Park County,” said 9NEWS legal analyst Scott Robinson. “It’s unfortunate that the elected sheriff chooses not to be there most of the time.”

RELATED: Park County sheriff working from Florida, handling his job through email

RELATED: One year later, still few answers in the death of 17-year-old Maggie Long

Park County commissioners answered 9NEWS’ questions about the sheriff’s absence during a Dec. 13 county commissioners meeting. Commissioner Dick Elsner said Wegener rents a place in Park County and is registered to vote in Colorado.

“By all standards that I know of, he is a resident of Park County,” Elsner said.

According to Colorado statute, sheriffs must be subject “at all times, to the command of the people, and each thereof at all hours, night and day, be prepared to attend such duties as may reasonably be required of them." So, whether the living situation is truly unconstitutional could be up for debate, but nothing in the state law acknowledges this question, Robinson told 9NEWS.

“I don’t think anything about being an elected sheriff presupposes an occasional visit to the county in which you are the head law enforcement officer,” Robinson said.

Park County Undersheriff Dave Wholers told 9NEWS he believes Wegener returns to Park County for about a week at a time each month. Robinson thinks Wegener is at least breaking the spirit of the law by working from Florida.

“Perhaps having a rental property in Park County is enough to satisfy the letter of the law, but it doesn’t sound like the citizens of Park County are getting what they’re paying for which is a sheriff on duty basically 24-7,” Robinson said.

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