Interim Denver sheriff Fran Gomez has withdrawn her application to be considered for the permanent sheriff position, a top spot she has filled since Patrick Firman resigned in October.
Gomez — who served, albeit briefly, as the city’s first female sheriff — told Westword it was a “tough decision” to step aside.
“But after learning the identity of other sheriff applicants,” she said, “I believe the Denver Sheriff Department will benefit from having someone who has worked in a sheriff’s department their entire career lead the agency; they understand the business of 'sheriffing' better than I do."
The list of applicants was not disclosed to Gomez, said Kelli Christensen, spokesperson for the Denver Department of Public Safety.
"Some of the applicants chose to reach out to her directly to learn more about the role," she told Colorado Politics in an email.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is expected to select a new sheriff, who will make about $194,500, within the next month, she said. The process was delayed by the coronavirus outbreak.
Following the October resignation of Firman after four turbulent years at the helm of the city’s jails, the Department of Public Safety late last year sought community and staff feedback to help guide the interview and selection process.
The agency also created a sheriff selection committee, announced in February, that will play “a key role” in the hiring process. The committee is chaired by the interim public safety director, Murphy Robinson, and made up of community leaders to “ensure the residents of Denver are represented” in the process.
The committee includes the following members:
- Justin L. Cooper, Deputy Director, Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition
- Capt. Chris Brown, Denver Sheriff Department
- Gerardo Lopez, Commissioner, Denver Office of Strategic Partnerships
- Terri House, Denver Food Rescue
- Denver City Councilman Paul Kashmann
- Denver City Councilwoman Jamie Torres
- Qusair Mohamedbhai, Partner, Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC
- Stephanie Donner, Executive Director, Emily Griffith Technical College
Selection committees were also used in 2018 with the search of a new Denver police chief, as well as in 2015 for a new sheriff, according to Christensen.
The morning after Firman stepped down, Hancock quietly appointed him to a new position with the city at a salary of $160,000.
Denver City Councilwomen Amanda Sawyer and Candi CdeBaca have partnered to push a ballot initiative that would require the council’s approval on any mayoral and public safety appointees, including the sheriff position.
The council will meet on Monday to discuss the first draft of the bill, with hopes of moving the process forward to ensure the initiative can be referred to the November 2020 ballot.
Deputy Sheriff and President of Denver Sheriff Lodge 27 Michael Jackson said in October that he and the 700 deputies he represents side with CdeBaca.
“We believe that if the position was elected, you would get the top-notch people,” he said. But once qualified candidates “realize they have no control over the sheriff’s department,” they drop out of the running — a pattern he’s witnessed “pretty much (his) whole career.”
“That’s when you end up with the Firmans," he said. "That’s how you end up with the new appointee person."