A Ouray County deputy was obliged to arrest his own sheriff the evening before Thanksgiving, for alleged driving under the influence.
Ouray County Sheriff Lance FitzGerald, 54, was briefly booked into the Montrose County Jail. He posted a $750 bond and was released pending his Jan. 2, 2020 court date in Ouray.
A companion of his, identified in jail and court records as Jamie Johnson, 40, was detained for alleged domestic violence. She has also been released on bail, pending her court hearing of Jan. 2.
Formal charges have not been filed.
A message left on the voicemail for FitzGerald’s last known cell phone number was not immediately returned Monday. His arrest was confirmed Monday, after the Thanksgiving holiday, which had delayed the release of jail blotter records. (He was formally booked early Nov. 28, according to the blotter.)
“Now it is in the hands of the county attorney and the District Attorney’s Office,” Ouray County Undersheriff Ted Wolfe said Monday.
Wolfe could not speak to particulars of the case.
An arrest affidavit says FitzGerald and Johnson were drinking at a brewery in Ouray the evening of Nov. 27, then he drove them back to his Ridgway home so Johnson could change her clothing before the pair again headed out for a night of karaoke at another establishment, where they both also drank.
FitzGerald said things turned sour when Johnson “became flirtatious” with others and he became jealous, Ouray County Deputy Monty English wrote in the affidavit. FitzGerald insisted they had to leave and the couple got into a “heated” quarrel on their way home, according to the report. FitzGerald alleged that as he drove down County Road 5, Johnson hit him when he called her by a crude term.
English noted a 1-inch cut on the bridge of FitzGerald’s nose and damage to his eyeglasses.
Johnson later told English that FitzGerald had been throwing his arms around while they were fighting on the drive home. She denied striking him.
Once back they were at FitzGerald’s Ridgway home, the sheriff called English to report he had been punched in the face.
When English arrived, he could smell alcohol emanating from FitzGerald, who allegedly admitted drinking. Johnson, further, told English FitzGerald had been driving, the affidavit says.
After English left with Johnson in custody, he called Wolfe to explain the situation and said he wanted to go back to conduct roadside sobriety tests on the sheriff, to which Wolfe agreed.
English handed off custody of Johnson to a Ridgway deputy marshal, then returned to FitzGerald’s residence.
When he asked the sheriff to voluntarily perform sobriety test maneuvers, FitzGerald declined “and said that he was drinking after I left his residence the first time,” English wrote in the affidavit.
FitzGerald then was arrested and advised of express consent for DUI testing. “He again told me he had been drinking,” the affidavit states.
When they arrived at the jail, the deputy again asked for consent to test for DUI and this time, FitzGerald agreed to a breath test.
He allegedly blew 0.133 breath alcohol concentration, a reading above the legal limit for driving, although the affidavit does not establish what level of intoxication FitzGerald might have been experiencing when English first arrived at his home.
Wolfe said Monday he is not certain what will happen concerning FitzGerald on the administrative end.
“For me, this is the first time I’ve ever been involved in something like this. I have never been around this, so I’m not sure exactly where it’s going to go. It has been turned over to human resources,” Wolfe said.
He said he expects the Ouray County commissioners to become involved at some point.
Commissioner Don Batchelder, when reached by phone Monday, said he had not been aware of the allegation and therefore could not comment on what involvement commissioners might have. The other two commissioners for Ouray County did not return phone messages in advance of deadline.
Wolfe said he does not have a clear protocol for handling the situation. “Right now, it’s going to be in the hands of the court and/or county administration and attorney. We’ve got to go from there,” he said.
As per his statutory duties, Wolfe is handling administration within the sheriff’s office.
“Everyone keeps doing their job until things change on the upper scale of this department. Right now, we’re just running it like we’re supposed to,” the undersheriff said.
Deputies will keep doing their jobs “as well as they did last weekend,” Wolfe also said. “It’s not a good thing, but we did our job.”
There was no word Monday as to whether a special prosecutor might be appointed to handle FitzGerald’s case.
The DA’s Office is prosecuting FitzGerald’s former undersheriff, Richard Herman in an unrelated matter.
Herman, who FitzGerald had appointed undersheriff in January, is charged in Montrose with attempted inducement of child prostitution and has pleaded not guilty.
Herman was indicted for alleged conduct in March of 2018, which is said to have occurred while he was off-duty. FitzGerald, who was elected last November, was not sheriff at that time.