by Pam Zubeck
Sheriff Terry Maketa, facing the toughest election battle of his career, says "it has come to his attention" that his opponent, Monument Police Chief Jake Shirk has been accused of being in violation of a federal law, the Hatch Act, which restricts political activity by certain individuals.
Maketa also claims he hasn't received a letter from Shirk challenging him to four debates.
But a Shirk campaign spokesman, Kyle Fisk, says he's sure Shirk is in the clear, and a pending investigation by the Office of Special Counsel will find the complaint unfounded. Fisk says the identity of who filed the complaint a few weeks ago will remain secret until the Office of Special Counsel finishes its investigation.
Fisk says Shirk has gotten his own legal opinion and is sure his candidacy doesn't violate any laws. "According to our legal counsel and every conversation we've had with the Office of Special Counsel, Chief Jake is not violating the law," Fisk says.
Here's what Maketa's press release says:
"It has been brought to the attention of our campaign committee Jake Shirk's candidacy may be in question, due to his alleged violation of FEDERAL LAW concerning various provisions of the Hatch Act. If this matter has not been resolved, we believe it may be very problematic and bring into question the legality of his candidacy."
The Hatch Act restricts the political activity of individuals principally employed by state or local executive agencies and who work in connection with programs financed in whole or in part by federal loans or grants, according to the Office of Special Counsel's website. Usually, employment with a state or local agency constitutes the principal employment of the employee in question.
The following list offers examples of the types of programs which frequently receive financial assistance from the federal government: public health, public welfare, housing, urban renewal and area redevelopment, employment security, labor and industry training, public works, conservation, agricultural, civil defense, transportation, anti-poverty, and law enforcement programs.
Hatch Act: Who is Not Covered?
State and Local Employees
Hatch Act provisions do not apply to:
* individuals who exercise no functions in connection with federally financed activities; or
* individuals employed by educational or research institutions, establishments, or agencies which are supported in whole or in part by state or political subdivisions thereof, or by recognized religious, philanthropic or cultural organizations (e.g., administrators, teachers).
The law also exempts certain specified employees from the prohibition on candidacy for elective office. These exemptions include:
* the governor or lieutenant governor of a state, or an individual authorized by law to act as governor;
* the mayor of a city;
* a duly elected head of an executive department of a state or municipality who is not classified under a state or municipal merit or civil service system; and
* an individual holding public elective office. This exemption applies only when the elective office is the position which would otherwise subject the employee to the restriction of the Hatch Act.
If Shirk is violating the act, then one might want to ask whether Republican Wayne Williams and Springs Councilman Darryl Glenn is also violating it. Williams, a county commissioner, is running for clerk and recorder. Glenn is seeking Williams' commission seat.
Fisk calls Maketa's statements "a frivolous attack without factual basis."
In response to the Chief Jake for Sheriff debate challenge (original letter can be found at ChiefJake.com), Terry Maketa has refused to participate in two of the four proposed debates and launched an attack against the candidacy of Chief Jake Shirk, his campaign spokesman Fisk says in a release.
In the press release, Fisk also says:
"The Maketa camp claims they have not received any correspondence from Jake Shirk regarding the proposed debates. That is a lie. Certified mail receipts prove that Terry received the registered letter at his office. Additionally, certified mail receipts prove that both Terry’s campaign manager and the registered agent of his campaign committee also received their copies of the letter."
He also said this:
"The Maketa camp claims that Jake Shirk is in violation of the Hatch Act. The Hatch Act was written by politicians for politicians. It’s a pro-incumbent piece of legislation that regulates the political activities and candidacies of primarily federal employees, also applying in narrow instances to jurisdictions that receive federal funding. In no way does this apply to Police Chief Jake Shirk.
"It’s unfortunate that Maketa wants this race to be about lawyers in Washington, DC instead of law enforcements solutions here in El Paso County."
Kyle Fisk went on to say, "We are disappointed that Terry Maketa is playing politics and not focusing on the issues.”
Fisk noted Maketa already has accused Shirk of being ignorant and inexperienced, even though Shirk holds two college degrees and Maketa holds none, and Shirk has more years of law enforcement experience than Maketa. "When that backfired, he turned to more politics as usual and launched an untrue attack about the legality of Jake Shirk’s campaign," Fisk writes.
In Maketa's press release, the two-term sheriff appears to agree to a debate sometime in July. Shirk wants four, two this month and two in July.