Wegener resigning as ParkCo sheriff

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Undersheriff Wohlers also out

By Sal Christ

Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener is resigning five months before the official end of his term and will be replaced by Tom McGraw, one of five Republicans who campaigned to replace him and who ultimately won the GOP primary in late June.

In a phone call with the Courier on Thursday, Wegener said the decision stemmed from activities McGraw undertook in the days immediately following the June 26 primary election.

“Shortly after the election, I saw the direction things were headed — he's already met everyone and picked a new undersheriff. I thought it would be better to just get out of the way,” said Wegener. “Since we’re right up on the start of the new budget cycle, I thought it would be advantageous for him to be part of that, too.”

Wegener said he approached the Park County board of commissioners about resigning in July and recommended they appoint McGraw as his interim replacement.

Wegener’s resignation also includes the exit of current undersheriff Dave Wohlers, who said he hasn’t figured out where he will land after McGraw is formally sworn-in as interim sheriff by the Park County board of commissioners on Sept. 4.

“The incoming sheriff has not expressed a desire for me to stay on in any capacity and that was his decision I guess,” said Wohlers. “It's been a great honor to serve in my capacity with the Sheriff's Office — I've really enjoyed it. … I would have stayed around in another capacity because we have a lot of vacancies and I thought I might have been offered a different role, but that's not the case.”

McGraw confirmed that he will take over next month and said he has selected Detective Cpl. Steve Spodyak, who McGraw defeated in the primary, as his undersheriff.

"Steve and I had eight debates (during the campaign) and I listened to everything,” said McGraw. “I got to see what Steve had to say and I felt very comfortable about everything he said. Everyone knows him and he's very respected — it was a boost to the department to add him.”

While McGraw acknowledged that he didn't ask Wohlers to stick around, he said it wasn't personal, but rather a matter of “just wanting my own selections in there.”

Outgoing sheriff's tenure marred by controversy, high-profile cases
Wegener's resignation marks the end of a nearly 20-year career with the Park County Sheriff's Office and one known as much for its high-profile cases as it is for the controversy surrounding some of those incidents, including the 2006 hostage situation and shooting at Platte Canyon High School that left two people dead, including 16-year old Emily Keyes, and the February 2016 shootout in Bailey that killed Cpl. Nate Carrigan.

While Wegener and his team were praised by Keyes’ family for how they handled the 2006 shooting, Carrigan's family — as well as two deputies — sued the department for negligence over the 2016 shootout and former Park County sheriff’s Sgt. Welles Tonjes filed a wrongful termination lawsuit after he was fired following the incident.

More recently, Wegener and his department have come under fire for their handling of the Maggie Long murder investigation. Long, a 17-year old senior at Platte Canyon High, was found murdered at her family’s home in Bailey last December. In the immediate days, weeks and months following her death, the sheriff's department was evasive when it came to releasing any information about the case — to the point that investigators intentionally released false information about finding a body at the crime scene and refused to speak on the record about the investigation for six months.

While investigators eventually spoke with the Courier about the status of the investigation, public outcry over the lack of movement in the case has remained consistent.

Wegener, who first took office as Park County Sheriff in 1999, is expected to move to Florida.