by Pam Zubeck
By law, the County has the responsibility of defending the Sheriff and his employees for acts which occur in the course of employment. This is true for the other statutory offices as well. When interests may conflict, as in this case, the County has the responsibility of making sure all parties have proper counsel. This obligation exists for the county unless and until a court would rule to relieve the County of its obligation to provide legal representation.
Following established procedures the County Attorney’s Office initiates agreements with outside counsel and is the “point of contact” for outside counsel representing the County, county employees or elected officials. Sherman and Howard has an existing retainer agreement to assist the County Attorney with complex employment related claims and has done so, representing various county offices and departments including the Sheriff’s Office in the past. Because there would be a possible conflict in this matter, qualified counsel not previously retained by the County was the preferred option to assure the required representation for the Sheriff.
In this case Pamela Mackey was suggested by the Sheriff, not by the county. After having first been contacted by the Sheriff, Ms. Mackey has been informally retained by the County Attorney’s Office, pursuant to Board policies, for the reduced government rate of $250 per hour, to provide initial counsel for the Sheriff pending the approval of a formalized retention agreement including agreed upon rates and defined scope of service (defense against civil employment related claims) by the Board of County Commissioners in an open and public meeting. This will likely be an agenda item for formal Board action either next week or the week after next.
The Board of County Commissioners is committed to a complete independent investigation into employment related claims and full compliance with all statutory requirements. The Board has directed the third party investigator, I.T. staff and outside counsel to collect all possible evidence and documents in an effort to obtain the truth in all allegations. The Board expects all involved parties, including the elected Sheriff to be treated equally and to provide the evidence and documents necessary to advance the investigation, including county equipment which may or may not contain evidence relevant to the investigation.
The Commissioners are currently out of town at the Colorado Counties Inc. summer conference. At 8am tomorrow morning (6-5-14) at Centennial Hall (200 S. Cascade) Commissioner Dennis Hisey, Chair of the Board and Commissioner Amy Lathen, Vice Chair will be available for interviews.