Mesa County landfill manager arrested, may face felonies
Mesa County’s landfill manager has been arrested on allegations he used a county-owned Global Positioning System, computer and cell phone to track and harass another county employee and the employee’s wife as part of a yearslong affair with the woman.
Robert Ernest Edmiston, 53, 637 35 Road, turned himself in at the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department late Wednesday afternoon. He could be charged with felony counts of embezzlement of public property and stalking and misdemeanor counts of first-degree official misconduct, second-degree criminal tampering and harassment.
Edmiston appeared in court Thursday via closed-circuit television from the Mesa County Jail dressed in a yellow jumpsuit. County Judge Craig Henderson ordered him to have no contact with either the employee or the employee’s wife. Defense attorney Leigh Taylor told Henderson that Edmiston has lived in the county for 25 years, has family here and doesn’t pose a flight risk.
Edmiston was released from jail just after 2:30 p.m. after posting a $3,000 personal-recognizance bond. A phone message left at Edmiston’s home Thursday afternoon wasn’t returned.
Prosecutors will formally file charges Wednesday.
Edmiston, who draws an annual salary of $91,827, is the county’s waste management division director and has been in charge of operating the county landfill since 1990. He has been employed with the county since 1987, county spokeswoman Jessica Peterson said.
County Administrator Jon Peacock said he learned on Tuesday that Edmiston was under investigation and placed him on paid administrative leave that same day. He said the county is cooperating with law enforcement and will conduct an internal probe to determine whether to take any further action against Edmiston.
“We’ll be conducting our own investigation and analysis as soon as possible, but we want to also be sure we give it a fair look,” Peacock said.
The Sheriff’s Department opened an investigation into Edmiston after receiving a 911 call from a county Road and Bridge Department employee on May 10.
The employee told deputies Edmiston came to his workshop, yelled profanities at him and threatened him after the employee told Edmiston to leave, according to an arrest affidavit.
The affidavit spells out hundreds of instances over the past eight months in which Edmiston allegedly contacted either the employee or his wife by e-mail, text message or phone call or drove by their house.
The employee said he and Edmiston used to be good friends through work but that their friendship deteriorated because of a series of harassing communications from Edmiston connected to marital problems he and his wife were having.
The employee’s wife told investigators things took a turn for the worse late last year. She said she confided in Edmiston about problems in her marriage but that Edmiston became concerned about how much time she was spending with other people, including other men.
After a local fundraising event in December, the employee received an anonymous e-mail containing a picture of his wife and another man at the event and a caption asking if the man knew what his wife was doing or who she was with.
The husband continued to receive several similar messages each time his wife left the house, leading the couple to believe that Edmiston was somehow tracking her movements.
At some point in March, the husband checked her vehicle and found a GPS underneath it. The couple sent a pair of e-mails to Edmiston telling him not to contact them.
The husband told investigators that same month that Edmiston followed him while he was dumping a load in the landfill, climbed into his truck and told him they needed to talk. He said Edmiston admitted attaching the GPS to his wife’s vehicle.
In an interview with investigators on May 11, Edmiston said he suspected the employee’s wife was having an affair and told the employee about it because he loved and was close to both of them.
Later in the interview, he admitted he had had an eight-year affair with the woman and that she broke it off last fall.
The woman told investigators she ended the affair because Edmiston was becoming obsessive and controlling and questioning her about every male relationship she had.
After initially denying knowing anything about the GPS, Edmiston admitted placing it on the woman’s car, changing the batteries in it and downloading the data from the unit onto his work computer.
He claimed, though, that he personally purchased the GPS and that it didn’t belong to the county.
When confronted by investigators with allegations of harassment and criminal tampering, Edmiston reportedly bristled and told them they had better talk to the district attorney because they needed a lot more evidence to have a case against him.
“Bring it on if you think you can win this in court. Go for it,” an investigator, quoting Edmiston, wrote in the affidavit.
Investigators collected Edmiston’s work computer from his home and a GPS at his office that was similar to the one found on the woman’s car.
While at the landfill on May 12, they interviewed county GPS supervisor Frank Kochevar, who told them he had purchased two GPS trackers in 2006 and 2007.
Kochevar said Edmiston had asked him in 2007 if he had any device that could track a vehicle. He said he gave one of the GPS trackers to Edmiston and didn’t think anything of it because Edmiston was a department head.
Investigators learned the county had purchased two more GPS trackers with the same brand name as the one on the woman’s vehicle. The trackers were shipped to the landfill.
In addition, investigators collected and reviewed records from Edmiston’s work cell phone between Sept. 16, 2009, and April 15 of this year. They found Edmiston called the county employee and his wife more than 260 times during that period.