In the wake of allegations published Friday in The Gazette that El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa had sexual relationships with three subordinates and promoted them to top jobs, the El Paso County Commissioners held an emergency session and the FBI indicated it is looking into potential financial misconduct in the Sheriff's Office.
An FBI special agent in Colorado Springs called The Gazette on Friday and asked for any financial documents the newspaper has relating to the Sheriff's Office, saying he was doing a preliminary investigation related to the Sheriff's Office.
Called for comment, FBI spokesman Dave Joly said he could not confirm or deny whether there is an investigation.
County Commissioners said after their emergency session Friday that they are conducting an investigation into allegations against the sheriff, which was launched May 12 when they received formal complaints about the sheriff. They said they hired additional attorneys Friday to represent Maketa.
The allegations come from a seven-page complaint submitted to the county commissioners May 12 by three Sheriff's Office commanders, which rebuked Maketa's term in office, accusing him of repeated sexual impropriety, discrimination, creating a hostile work environment, violating the civil rights of those who work in the Sheriff's Office, using intimidation to keep people quiet about his misdeeds and removing almost all oversight of the $60 million Sheriff's Office annual budget.
Maketa and the three women named in the complaint have denied the allegations.
Commissioners said that while the county might be on the hook for any damages from lawsuits stemming from the sheriff's alleged actions, the commissioners don't have the authority to fire Maketa, who is an elected official. The most they could do is vote to give him a letter of censure or call for his resignation if the allegations are substantiated.
They said the only way for the sheriff to leave office would be for voters to recall him or for him to step down.
A spokeswoman for 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May said she could not talk about ongoing criminal investigations, but said, "Materials that have been presented to this office are currently under review" in connection to the allegations against Maketa.
If the sheriff were charged with a crime by the district attorney, law requires him to be arrested by the county coroner.
Commissioner Darryl Glenn said the board had heard rumors of Maketa's alleged affairs, calling them "the worst kept secret in town," but urged caution in proceeding, saying, "One thing we are proud of in this country is a presumption of innocence."
Glenn said the county is encouraging Sheriff's Office employees to come forward and assist in the investigation, and the county was "taking steps" to ensure employees are protected.
Commissioner Amy Lathen said the commissioners had not known about hundreds of text messages and emails between email accounts and phone numbers assigned to Maketa and a female employee that were obtained by The Gazette. Examples of the exchanges were included in Friday's article. She asked that The Gazette "share its information" to help with the county investigation.
The Gazette said it would not make its source documents public.
"The county is requesting unreported information, which is privileged under the state's shield law," said Joe Hight, editor of The Gazette. "We respectfully refuse the request. As we also understand, the county already has access to the emails and texts that are referenced in the story."
Bill Elder, the Republican candidate for sheriff and who will likely take Maketa's place once Maketa's term is up in January, commended the three Sheriff's Office commanders who wrote the complaint, saying "it took a lot of courage to step up."
"I am saddened by the allegations. There obviously needs to be a full and comprehensive investigation, and the legal process needs to run its course," Elder said. "Accordingly, I do not think it would be appropriate for me to comment on the allegations any further."