Facing possible lawsuits, calls to resign, and a recall petition, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa has ordered mandatory "staff inspection" meetings to discuss morale.
A patrol deputy who was in one of the meetings with eight other personnel Wednesday said many of the deputies complained about getting catcalls and other negative comments referencing Maketa while on patrol. The deputy didn't want her name used because she feared retribution. The meetings are being conducted by Sheriff's Office internal affairs deputies.
"When IA (Internal Affairs) asked about morale, at first there was an awkward silence and some chuckling," the deputy said. Finally, she said, a member of the group said they needed to talk about the "elephant in the room" and said citizens were making comments during traffic stops and other calls.
"Basically, the Sheriff's Office's authority is in question with the public," the deputy said.
She said on a traffic stop, a resident referred to her as "one of the sheriff's women."
Maketa was accused in May of having affairs with three women in his office whom he then promoted. For years, the sheriff had denied having affairs, telling the media he would take lie detector tests to prove his innocence. In May, after The Gazette published excerpts of text messages between the sheriff and his comptroller, Maketa admitted to making what he called "mistakes" and causing "distractions" but rebuffed calls from El Paso County commissioners and others to resign.
The county is investigating those accusations as well as accusations that Maketa created a hostile work environment and removed virtually all oversight of the county budget. The District Attorney's Office previously has said it is investigating criminal complaints against Maketa but didn't offer details.
A sheriff's spokesman said staff inspection meetings are conducted annually, and asking about morale is standard. He did not say who in the office must attend.
The deputy who spoke to The Gazette said this was the first such meeting she had attended in several years on the force.
At the meeting, the deputy said, most of the group said they were "embarrassed" and that the sheriff's actions make it harder to do their jobs.
"It's rough, there is a definitely a vacuum in command, a big hole, and we feel it," she said. "And when you get heckled when you are called to a disturbance, and someone calls you one of the 'sheriff's women' it is hard to remain professional and not tell them off."
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