El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa is under investigation, according to Commissioners Amy Lathen and Darryl Glenn.
Lathen and Glenn told reporters May 23 that the commission's investigation was launched immediately after receiving a May 12 complaint letter from three sheriff's commanders about Maketa's allegedly preferential treatment of subordinates with whom he's accused of having affairs.
Earlier that day, commissioners held an "emergency" meeting, without public notice being given, and went into executive session to get "legal advice" after the daily newspaper published a shirtless selfie of Maketa and snippets of what were said to be romantic text messages to one woman in the office.
County Attorney Amy Folsom says commissioners took no formal action during the meeting but did tell her to hire additional outside legal counsel to represent the sheriff. She says the county has received two notices of claim (a precursor to a lawsuit), and three equal employment opportunity complaints regarding the sheriff, in addition to the commanders' letter.
Emergency commission meetings are rare. The last one was held when the Waldo Canyon Fire broke out, in June 2012.
Glenn said the county's investigation is designed "to independently verify all of this [Gazette] information before we make any public statements," and assure sheriff's employees that "we have their back."
Folsom says the scope of the county's investigation is "confidential and privileged" but spans "all potential county policy violations."
Yet Lathen and Glenn told reporters there's not much commissioners can do, because the sheriff, by statute, runs his department and isn't subject to discipline by other county officials. The county's investigation, they said, is aimed at claims of sexual harassment and "budget and financial policy" issues.
The Independent reported four years ago on Maketa's unusual treatment of a troubled detective, and his promotion of two women with whom he had questionable relationships ("Star treatment," March 11, 2010) and to whom he gave promotions and raises. The Gazette's report cited the salary data.
The commission did nothing then. In its public statement released Friday, commissioners said while they were "aware of media reports, rumors and innuendo related to the Sheriff's office several years ago," the May 12 letter was "the first such complaint" submitted to county administrators.
Lathen said Maketa placed the three commanders on paid leave May 13. She said she wants that investigation expedited.