Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Former treasurer, Sheriff Maketa have conflicting reports about account that held nearly $1 million

By Matt Steiner Updated: July 24, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Something doesn't jibe when it comes to almost a million dollars of county money.

Conflicting reports Wednesday between Sheriff Terry Maketa and former county treasurer Sandra Damron about a sheriff's office account raised more concerns amid accusations surrounding the embattled sheriff, and prompted the county commission to take up the issue of county accounts when it meets July 29.

The sheriff recently told current treasurer Bob Balink that an account with close to a million dollars in it was approved by Damron in 2006. Damron, however, said in an interview with The Gazette on Wednesday morning that Maketa's claim is false.

"The truth is I knew nothing about this account," Damron said. "I was very firm that accounts be set up using a treasurer's office ID. There was not an account set up with my authority in 2006."

A spokesman for the sheriff's office refuted Damron's claim that she was not aware of the account in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. It stated "through his own conversations, the sheriff is aware Ms. Damron had knowledge of the account."

Sheriff's office spokesman Lt. Jeff Kramer said in the release that the "first Sheriff's Office Civil Division has had a bank account dating back at least to the early 1990's." In 2006, the release stated, the account was closed and a new one was reopened because of "troubles reconciling the first account as a result of issues" with "antiquated" software.

A check for "roughly $32,000" in the old account was written to the Treasurer's Office, the release said, and Maketa "directed his staff" to work with Damron when the new account opened.

Maketa "believes they may have worked with county finance instead," the release said, but he claims that Damron knew of the account.

According to Colorado Revised Statutes, all county funds must flow through the county treasurer's office.

"It is the duty of the county treasurer to receive all moneys belonging to the county, from whatsoever source they may be derived," says Title 30, Article 10, Part 7 of the statutes.

According to Balink, the account in question bears a tax identification number belonging to the county finance department.

Balink said the account came to the attention of the treasurer in June 2013 when a six-month summary report was being compiled by his staff. More than $600,000 had been deposited by the sheriff's office into the county's general fund, Balink said.

"So wait a minute, where did all this money come from?" the treasurer said he asked at the time the account was found.

Balink noted on Wednesday that the deposit created a red flag for his office because the amount was a large variance when compared to deposits made by Maketa's office at the end of previous six-month periods. He also said the account had not been a part of the county's year-end audit process because it was created in 2006.

The account is used by the sheriff's office to hold money generated through the jail commissary and fees charged for serving court documents in civil cases, county spokesman Dave Rose said.

The sheriff's office release gave reasons for the differing amounts of money sent to the account. The Treasurer's Office receives a monthly check from the Sheriff's Office Civil Division account, but in 2011, it was discovered that a software glitch caused incorrect amounts of money to be sent, the release stated. This caused the civil division account balance to rise.

"Knowing the money needed to be transferred out," the released stated, checks for $100,000 and $400,000 were written to the Treasurer's Office in 2011. Another glitch was discovered in 2012, and "large checks" were "written to the Treasurer's Office to bring the account balance down in 2012, 2013 and a 'clean up' check written in 2014," the release said.

The account now contains about $50,000, the release said, and "the previous problems no longer exist."

Emails between El Paso County Deputy Treasurer Judy Hardwicke, County Budget Officer Nicola Sapp, Maketa, Balink, and other county officials were also included in the release. In an email dated Aug. 23, 2013, Hardwicke wrote, "There was never any implication of wrongdoing by Sheriff Maketa or his staff. It was just an inquiry."

Maketa has been under investigation by the county since late May after complaints were filed accusing him of sexual improprieties, creating a hostile work environment, discrimination and removing almost all oversight of the Sheriff's Office annual budget. Also in late May, the county commissioners cast a unanimous vote of no confidence in the sheriff and called for Maketa's resignation.

The recent controversy surrounding the sheriff's office account has led to a need to clarify which funds need to go through the treasurer's office.

According to Rose, the Board of County Commissioners will consider a resolution at Tuesday's regular meeting that will make accounts in any county office a part of the general fund.

Rose said if the resolution passes, there will no longer be any question which money belongs to the county. From that point forward, information about all bank accounts will have to be provided to the treasurer's office.

"It then subjects all money to the standard county audit process," Rose said.

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Gazette reporter Stephen Hobbs contributed to this report.

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