Mountains

County stuck in lawsuit limbo

By Michael Maresh Journal staff writer

Not much has been decided on the lawsuit filed by the Denver Hospital Authority against the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office several months ago, following the care given to Zachary Sullivan, who suffered non-fatal gunshot wounds.

Sheriff Dennis Spruell in Monday’s Montezuma County Commission meeting said he recently called the attorney who is representing the sheriff’s office in the case and was told they are still trying to work with the numbers.

The county has authorized Spruell to see what it would cost to settle the case out of court.

While the county continues to talk to the Authority on a settlement, a status case hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 16 at 9 a.m. in District Court if no resolution has been reached by then.

Attorneys for the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office had asked District Court Judge Todd Plewe to dismiss the $158,000 lawsuit for the cost of treating Sullivan, who was shot after he pointed a gun at two local law enforcement officers in March 2011, though Plewe ruled against the motion to dismiss.

Spruell said the county is only required to pay what Medicare pays, which is 30 cents on the dollar or 30 percent, meaning the most the county would be required to pay is $46,200.

“The price they sent to the county is excessive,” Spruell said.

The county’s preference would be to come to an agreement rather than going to court.

“If we settle out of court that would be pretty good, but we don’t have a number yet,” Spruell said.

In July, Sullivan was convicted of attempted first-degree murder and sentenced to 48 years in prison.

Grant news

Spruell also told the commission at its Monday meeting about two tax-free grants the sheriff’s office recently received.

The gaming grant was for $94,500 and will be used to purchase 20 new computers and overtime pay for patrolling at the Ute Mountain Ute Casino.

Spruell said the sheriff’s office had to go to Durango to provide justification why it needed the gaming grant.

The court security grant the sheriff’s office received was for $87,253 and the funds from this will be used to pay for two court security employees, two Tasers and training.

The court security grant is funded by the court fees charged to the people convicted of crimes.

The two grants are annual grants, and while the sheriff’s office received the two grants last year the amounts were different, and Spruell added that police agencies going for these two grants are required to reapply every year.

Spruell reiterated that the two grants are not funded by tax dollars, so there is no cost to the taxpayers.

michaelm@cortezjournal.com

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