El Paso County commissioners approved two settlements Tuesday to pay two people who made claims against former Sheriff Terry Maketa, who left office in late 2014.
Commissioner Salie Clark called the claims "an unfortunate situation," but the county wanted to "make it right to the folks that felt there was something wrong here."
• Wendy Habert, a county employee some years ago who later worked for the jail medical provider, managed Maketa's runs for sheriff in 2002, 2006 and 2010. She was in that role when the Independent's cover story ("Star treatment," March 11, 2010) was published, outlining his questionable relationships with several female employees. Habert gave $1,740 to the 2014 campaign of Bill Elder, who succeeded Maketa.
Habert's April 2015 demand letter cited Elder, Maketa and former Undersheriff Paula Presley. Habert claims she was fired after complaining of sexual harassment by a deputy, County Attorney Amy Folsom said.
The county agreed to pay Habert $55,000 and her lawyer $30,000.
• Sheriff's employee Cliff Porter filed a claim in May 2014 after stories were published about Maketa's dalliances. He claimed he was a victim of political retaliation, but sources say audio of a meeting in which Porter claimed the blowback took place doesn't substantiate the claim. And a video of who left the Sheriff's Office at what time also disputes his version, according to sources who didn't want to be named. Porter named Maketa, Presley, former Bureau Chief Al Harmon and former Commander Jon San Agustin in his claim.
He'll split a $35,000 settlement with his lawyer.
The county notes in legal documents that the "sole County purpose" of the settlements is "avoiding the costs of litigation, which will exceed the cost of this settlement agreement."
The county earlier paid roughly $200,000 to sheriff's employees who have been reinstated in their jobs since Elder took office. Other settlements are pending. — PZ
Boulder suspends panhandling law
Boulder is following in Colorado Springs' footsteps, suspending enforcement of a panhandling law in the wake of a federal court ruling that found parts of a similar law in Grand Junction unconstitutional, the Boulder Daily Camera reports.
The federal court ruled that certain restrictions on panhandling infringe on First Amendment rights. As of press time, the Boulder City Council was scheduled to consider an emergency ordinance to further address the issue.
Colorado Springs stopped enforcing most of its panhandling laws after receiving a Sept. 14 letter from the American Civil Liberties Union accusing the city of a pattern of illegal enforcement, including ticketing people for simply holding a sign asking for money. Colorado Springs is still enforcing a law against aggressive panhandling, which includes: continuing to solicit after being told "no," making unwanted physical contact, following or blocking pedestrians, using profane or abusive language, issuing threats or using violent behavior, or approaching in a group of two or more. — JAS
Suthers delivers city budget
Mayor John Suthers' 2016 budget, delivered to City Council on Monday, is 3.6 percent bigger than this year's budget. Totaling $268.1 million, it contains funding for police body cameras ($840,000), flood control projects ($16 million), money to design a new Sand Creek police substation ($400,000) and a tax break for businesses ($1.05 million).
The tax break is the first half of a two-year elimination of the business personal property tax. "This program is designed to reward and encourage business expansion and relocation — making the City's business tax environment more competitive and equitable across industries," the mayor's office said in a release.
The budget, which must be approved by Council, also includes $814,000 in additional money for Mountain Metro Transit — increasing funding from $4.3 million to $5.1 million, which would bring the city closer to the $5.7 million maintenance of effort commitment made in 2004 when the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority was created, the release says. In effect, the city went back on its word to fully fund transit if voters approved the initial 1 percent sales tax for the PPRTA in 2004.
Among other highlights:
• $250,000 toward a comprehensive plan, which hasn't been updated for 15 years.
• $75,000 for the Regional Business Alliance, which recruits and retains business and industry.
• $55,000 for the Small Business Development Center, "an important community partner that assists with small business development and growth."
Council will host a public meeting on the budget from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 20. — PZ
Ballots are going out soon
El Paso County residents should be seeing their mail ballots next week. Mail ballots will be sent out on Monday, Oct. 12 (even though it's a holiday). El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office spokesperson Ryan Parsell says that if you haven't received your mail ballot by Oct. 16, you should call 575-VOTE.
The Nov. 3 coordinated election will decide tax hikes and revenue retention requests. Voters will also elect school board members and, in Manitou Springs, a mayor and four City Council seats.
Still need to register or update your voter registration? You can do it online at govotecolorado.com.
The truly hardcore, who can't wait until after Oct. 12 to see their ballot, can check out a sample ballot at EPCvotes.com. The sample ballot can be accessed by clicking the "voter resources" tab. — JAS
Weigh in on Summit House
The building at the top of Pikes Peak is known for great donuts — and that's about it. For years, there has been talk of replacing the decrepit structure with something to match the majesty of the 14,115-foot mountain. Now the city is asking for the public's input on initial design concepts for a new building that RTA Architects is mapping out.
Those interested can attend the meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 7, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at Garden of the Gods Trading Post, 324 Beckers Lane in Manitou Springs. Presentations will be made at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. and will include design concepts, information about interpretive exhibits, landscaping, sustainability, water, permafrost and mechanical challenges, and other details.
Can't make the meeting? You can also learn more about the design process at PikesPeakColorado.com; get updates on the design by signing up for an email newsletter at SummitComplexInfo@springsgov.com; and offer your opinions on the project by taking a survey at svy.mk/1Q4NHe5.
The city is working in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, the Army and Colorado Springs Utilities on the new Summit House. — JAS
Florence the new Gitmo?
Federal prisons in Florence and Cañon City are being eyed as possible places to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay, the Denver Post reports.
Defense Department officials notified Congress of plans to make site visits to the medium-security Federal Correctional Institute in Florence, and the Centennial South Correctional Facility, a maximum-security state prison in Cañon City that's now vacant, although the state continues to pay $20 million a year after building the prison in 2010 and shutting it down two years later, the Post reported.
Both U.S. senators — Republican Cory Gardner and Democrat Michael Bennet — cried foul, as did U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, the Post reported, and Gov. John Hickenlooper noted in a statement that it's not legal to move detainees to the United States.
Gitmo, set up in 2002, once held 780 terrorist suspects; it now holds 114 detainees, according to the Post. — PZ