JACKSON, Wyo. The Jackson Hole Airport has hit another dead end in its efforts to find an agency willing to certify its law enforcement officers.
Teton County Sheriff Bob Zimmer has told the airport board that his department won't continue to certify the three airport officers past Dec. 1. The sheriff says he's concerned about the liability of taking responsibility for officers who aren't under his direct command.
Airport officials have said they may have to close the airport if they can't find a law enforcement agency willing to certify the officers.
Officials at Grand Teton National Park on Thursday also declined to certify the airport officers. The airport is located in the park under a lease agreement.
Gary Pollock, management assistant at Grand Teton, said Thursday that providing airport security is not within the terms of the agency's lease agreement.
Ray Bishop, airport director, said at an airport board meeting Thursday said if a solution isn't found by the December deadline, the Transportation Security Administration will revoke the airport's certification. He said the TSA does have the authority to provide law enforcement for airports, but said it's uncertain whether it would do so.
Bishop said he's looking for some other law enforcement agency willing to certify the airport officers. He said he also hopes state lawmakers will allow the airport to authorize law enforcement officers on its own.
Keith Gingery, civil attorney for Teton County, represented Zimmer at Thursday's board meeting. "He has a long list of issues and concerns that he felt was ignored," Gingery said of the sheriff.
Zimmer has said the airport officers have neglected to show up for training exercises with the department. Gingery said Zimmer also has been excluded from hiring, firing and disciplinary decisions involving the airport officers.
"There have been occasions in the past when the airport has not done what the sheriff thought they should do to discipline a deputy," Gingery said.
Airport board member Jack Larimer said Zimmer's Aug. 25 letter stating his intention to pull the airport officers' badges was inappropriate. Larimer said the sheriff hadn't attempted to talk to board members about his concerns.
"That one man has this power simply because he is angry is absurd," Larimer said. "He's placed us in a situation where the solution is impossible. The only solution is to close."
Board member Jerry Blann asked Bishop to continue to try to find a solution.
"We're in a tough spot here," Blann said. "It's not looking rosy right now, and December first is right around the corner."
Speaking after the board meeting, Zimmer said he has asked airport administrators to solve the problem since he took office more than nine years ago.
"Jack Larimer cannot claim ignorance to this issue," Zimmer said. "He's going to have to put up with me for two more years."