Review of Sheriff’s Office Employment Related Complaints Completed
Investigation Confirms Inappropriate Relationships Linked to Preferential Treatment
El Paso County (October 30, 2014) – An independent investigation into employment related complaints from employees of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office has been completed.
The Office of the Sheriff is an independent statutory office under Colorado law and the Board of County Commissioners has no ability to remove a sitting elected official. However, the Board of County Commissioners does have statutory responsibility for the oversight of all County finances as well as all county owned property, facilities and equipment.
The Board of El Paso County Commissioners (BoCC) engaged the law firm of Sherman and Howard to initiate the investigation on May 13, 2014 after receiving a letter on May 12, 2014 citing various employment related complaints from three Commanders within the Sheriff’s Office. This was the first official employee complaint the BoCC received concerning the EPSO and Sheriff Terry Maketa. The law firm of Sherman and Howard, which has extensive expertise in employment, law was retained to protect the rights of employees involved, review and investigate the allegations and prepare for any possible future litigation against El Paso County.
On May 29, 2014 the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC), acting unanimously, cited concerns that distractions and disruptions within the Sheriff’s Office compromised the functionality of the Office and asked Sheriff Terry Maketa to resign immediately.
At the direction of the Board of County Commissioners, the county put in place procedures aimed at preventing retaliation against employees who complained and securing data and records which could be useful to investigators. Those procedures included County Attorney review of all payroll change requests coming from the Sheriff’s Office and securing computer hard drives which may have contained relevant communications. Additionally, the County Attorney’s Office took steps to monitor of the use of Internal Affairs (IA) investigations and providing direction related IA investigations.
A complete report on the employment complaints investigation cannot be made public at this time because of pending litigation and at the request of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which is conducting a criminal investigation on behalf of the District Attorney’s Office. During the course of the investigation into the employment related complaints, interviewers from the Mountain States Employers Council (MSEC) conducted sixty six interviews and reviewed hundreds of pages of documents. Former Colorado Springs Police Chief Lorne Kramer was also engaged as an expert with extensive experience in law enforcement investigations and command for the specific purposes of reviewing certain EPSO personnel practices, Internal Affairs procedures and outcomes.
Most employees and former employees of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office who were contacted by MSEC cooperated with interviewers but some declined their requests and refused to cooperate. Law enforcement agencies and District Attorneys by law have additional investigatory tools including subpoena power, the ability to apply for and execute warrants and District Attorneys have the authority to convene a grand jury and compel witnesses to testify.
An overview of the employment complaints investigation was presented to Commissioners and made public today. Investigators confirm:
-That Sheriff Maketa engaged in inappropriate relationships with three female subordinates resulting in preferential treatment that allowed those individuals to disregard El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Policies and Procedures, abuse leave policies, ignore use of county property policies, chain of command procedures and the internal affairs process.
-That Sheriff Maketa and Undersheriff Presley inappropriately attempted to influence internal affairs investigations and failed follow EPSO policies for initiating and conducting internal affairs investigations.
-That Sheriff Maketa and Undersheriff Presley, without good cause, opened an internal affairs investigation and a criminal investigation into an alleged missing internal affairs file on a former EPSO employee.
-That Undersheriff Presley refused to cooperate with investigators and declined to be interviewed
To date the County has received notices of “intent” to file suit from nine current or former Sheriff’s Office employees. As of this date none of these “notices of intent to file” have resulted in lawsuits actually being filed with the courts.
In addition to and separate from the “notices of intent” there have been three EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) complaints filed and those are currently under investigation within that agency. Any questions about those complaints must be directed to the EEOC.
As a result of information received during the course of the employment investigation and the first phase of the RubinBrown financial review the Board of County Commissioners has directed the County Attorney’s Office to coordinate with the incoming Sheriff on improvements and changes including:
-A prior review of all adverse employment actions by the County Attorney’s Office before they take place
-Providing employees with the ability to petition County Attorney for review prior to adverse employment actions.
It has also affirmed requirements that all county related bank accounts be established through the County Treasurer’s Office and subject to all El Paso County audit and review procedures. One EPSO account has already been moved by official BoCC Resolution and another is undergoing audit review.
The Board of County Commissioners applauds the public statements issued by the incoming Sheriff in which he has pledged to move forward with adherence to nationally accepted best practices and work together with County Attorneys and County Administration to assure that Sheriff’s Office employees are treated fairly.
While the Board directs its attorneys to protect taxpayers by defending vigorously against all frivolous lawsuits, the focus now is on moving forward to overcome hard feelings and heal old wounds so the hard working and dedicated employees of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office can do the best job possible to ensure public safety.
In keeping with the Board’s directive to cooperate fully with the CBI criminal investigation the summary report of the investigators was sent to the CBI at noon today. The Board of County Commissioners recognizes that everyone is innocent until proven guilty and relies on the law enforcement authorities to use the investigatory tools available to them, including but not limited to subpoena powers, the Office of the Attorney General, special prosecutor or Grand Jury to complete their criminal investigation.