PALMER LAKE - The owner of a Palmer Lake Mexican restaurant who faces felony gambling charges said Thursday that he will file a complaint with the town claiming he was the victim of a vendetta by the police chief.
Jeff Hulsmann, co-owner of Guadala-Jarra’s, was arrested April 26 along with 22 other people in a raid on his restaurant that broke up a poker tournament. Hulsmann accused Police Chief Dale Smith of turning a friendly card game into a major gambling bust because of his long-running dislike for Hulsmann. Hulsmann, who also accused Town Clerk Della Gray of improper conduct for bringing pizza to the law officers during the raid, made the accusations after Thursday’s town board meeting. He had planned to make the complaint during the meeting, but he arrived late. The meeting was attended by at least three of the card players who were arrested, including town board member Trish Flake. “This is a personal vendetta based on something that happened 14 years ago,” Hulsmann said. Gray denied doing anything improper, saying it’s common in the small town to bring food to firefighters, for example, at large fires. Twenty-four people have been arrested in connection with the poker tournament: 22 alleged card players, Hulsmann and restaurant co-owner Peggy Jardon. Smith could not be reached for comment Thursday night. The police chief did not conduct the investigation into the weekly card games at Guadala-Jar- ra’s. Instead, a Palmer Lake police officer who had witnessed the games wrote a report about them, which Smith turned over to state authorities. Smith has been a police officer in Palmer Lake for 30 years and has headed the force for at least 15 years. Hulsmann, who also owns O’Malley’s Pub in Palmer Lake, has operated businesses in town for 19 years. Hulsmann said the animosity between him and Smith began when Smith resigned 14 years ago and then rescinded his resignation. “I publicly said (the board) should accept his resignation,” Hulsmann said. “I wouldn’t even remember this event if he didn’t bring it up the week before the bust came down. He brought it up out of the blue. All I said was, ‘That was a long time ago. You have a good memory.’” Hulsmann said he believes Smith is guilty of selective enforcement, citing similar Texas Hold ’Em games also played for money in the bar at The Bowling Alley in Palmer Lake. “If two guys are stealing a car, you don’t arrest one and let the other one go,” Hulsmann said. He also questions Gray’s role in the April 26 raid. “I want to know why the town clerk is delivering pizzas to the raid squad and sitting in on a police action,” Hulsmann said. Several other residents addressed the town board during Thursday’s meeting about the arrests, some defending Smith. Richard Allen encouraged those who were arrested to accept responsibility for their actions and consider apologizing to the town’s citizens. Blaming the police officers, he said, is a disservice to the town as well as its officers. “The owners stated they were unaware (the games were illegal),” he said. “I believe that’s the truth. Unfortunately, as liquor licensees, being unaware is no excuse.” Hulsmann, 48, and Jardon, 41, were arrested on suspicion of allowing illegal gambling at an establishment licensed to sell liquor, a felony, and suspicion of professional gambling and operating a gambling premises, both misdemeanors. The 22 card players were all charged with misdemeanor suspicion of professional gambling.