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Aspen Citizens To Discuss Sheriff’s ‘Liberal Views’ On Drugs

October 7, 1986

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) _ A citizens’ group says it is fed up with the sheriff’s ″liberal views″ on drugs, especially his refusal to make a cocaine-using deputy reveal his drug sources.

The deputy ″has no more obligation to uphold the law than any other citizen and citizens here aren’t turning in drug dealers,″ said Pitkin County Sheriff Dick Kienast, who admits to having tried cocaine himself.

Kienast said Deputy Skitch Rounsefell, who has been treated for drug addiction, isn’t violating the oath he took as a deputy by not turning in his dealers.

Kienast insists police undercover operations are dishonest. He said he doesn’t cooperate with federal undercover drug agents and doesn’t conduct secret investigations of his own.

Kienast, who isn’t seeking re-election after 10 years in office, has described himself as a philosopher-sheriff. His career in Aspen has been rife with controversy, largely because of his liberal social philosophy.

In 1979, a federal grand jury in Denver investigated allegations that Kienast was soft on drug crimes, but issued no indictments.

The sheriff’s supporters said the investigation was due to Kienast’s lack of cooperation with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

″Kienast’s liberalism has gone too far,″ said Mary Martin, who organized a meeting to discuss the issue Wednesday night. ″We are a group of citizens who are upset about this. We are very much against (Kienast’s policy) at a time when the president is asking people to work against drugs.″

Rounsefell, 45, has admitted his addiction to cocaine and alcohol and has promised to abstain since recently completing the treatment program in Estes Park.

Residents are angered over Kienast’s remarks that Rounsefell doesn’t have to reveal his drug sources even though Rounsefell has said he had no difficulty obtaining drugs in Aspen. The dealers, Rounsefell said, knew he was a deputy.

Rounsefell’s problems surfaced when he failed to return to work after a vacation last August. Kienast said he went to the deputy’s home in Basalt and asked if he had been using drugs and Rounsefell admitted it.

Kienast gave Rounsefell the choice of seeking treatment or resigning.

Kienast, who has described himself as a philosopher-sheriff, said he has used cocaine a few times ″but when and where isn’t appropriate.″ He said he does not believe he sampled enough for it to become a problem in his life.

A federal grand jury in Denver investigated allegations in 1979 that Kienast was soft on drug crimes, but returned no indictments.

Supporters of the sheriff said the investigation was due to his lack of cooperation with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

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