De Baca sheriff leaves office

By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer

FORT SUMNER — Swept out of office in a recall election, De Baca County Sheriff Gary Graves handed over the keys Thursday to the office he ran for nearly three years.

The request came in the form of a letter from the De Baca County Commission on Thursday morning stating he was “duly and lawfully recalled” as sheriff and asking he return all county property, the letter said.

Graves said he complied with the Commission’s request upon the advice of his lawyer, Bill Robins III.

The State Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled “the recall election … is stayed pending further order of the court.” It has scheduled a hearing for Nov. 22 to determine Graves’ fate. But until then, at least, Graves will not enforce the law in De Baca County.

A letter delivered by De Baca County Commissioner Powhatan Carter III on Thursday specifically asked Graves to return his keys, badge and files.

A motion to recall the sheriff passed Wednesday by a vote of 576-150, but only after the county clerk was instructed by the 10th Judicial District Attorney’s Office to proceed with the election despite a court order to postpone the vote.

The election drew 52 percent of the county’s approximately 1,400 voters.

Graves said he still has loyalties to De Baca County, but his recall “hurts.”

“I lost a lot of votes on both sides, especially mine, because the election was on and off,” Graves said.

Graves is accused of acts of malfeasance while in office, including misappropriation of funds, mistreating prisoners, and sexual harassment. He denies the allegations.

County Commissioner Joe Steele said state police have agreed to assist the county with law enforcement.

In another twist in the case, Graves said he has not received his last pay check.

Steele was unclear if Graves will be paid as officials await the ruling from the Court of Appeals.

“I think Graves probably won’t be paid, pending the appeal,” Steele said.