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Gazette Premium Content El Paso County commissioners ask Sheriff Maketa to resign

By Matt Steiner Published: May 30, 2014

Sheriff Terry Maketa got a no-confidence vote Thursday from the El Paso County Board of Commissioners and was asked to resign because of the disruption within his office.

"We believe that leadership within the Sheriff's Office has been compromised along with the functionality within the office," according to a statement read by Commissioner Amy Lathen after the unanimous vote.

Maketa did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.

The five-member board's action came after two employment complaints this month that allege sexual impropriety, discrimination and a hostile work environment. The first complaint was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on May 12 by three Sheriff's Office commanders and the second was filed with EEOC on Monday by a deputy.

Commissioners launched an investigation on May 13 and notified Maketa in a May 14 letter that the county would hire outside counsel or an independent agency to investigate the claims in the first complaint.

The issue fell into the public spotlight after a May 23 story in The Gazette that detailed the first complaint and included an example from more than 500 emails and text messages The Gazette obtained between Maketa and Dorene Cardarelle, the Sheriff's Office comptroller, and Tiffany Huntz, the head of training for dispatchers.

One of the EEOC complaints said the women and Undersheriff Paula Presley received preferential treatment because they were having sexual relationships with Maketa.

Maketa and the three women have denied the allegations.

At the commissioners meeting on Tuesday, attorney Erin Jensen called on Commissioners Sallie Clark and Amy Lathen and County Attorney Amy Folsom to recuse themselves from involvement in the Maketa investigation, citing their friendships with the sheriff and each other. Jensen represents Cliff Porter, the deputy who filed the second EEOC complaint.

On Thursday, Folsom recused herself from the investigation because of her role in providing legal services to the Sheriff's Office. Clark and Lathen have said they had no reason to step away from the issue.

The board also discussed the investigation at Tuesday's meeting when Commissioner Peggy Littleton demanded that Maketa resign. The Sheriff's Office issued a statement later Tuesday saying he intended to complete his third term in office, which ends at the end of 2014.

Littleton said Thursday that Maketa's insistence to remain in office during the tumultuous investigation is a "slap in the face" to his employees and the people of El Paso County.

"It has to be virtually impossible for deputies to be confident in their leadership," Littleton said moments before Thursday's vote.

Commissioners Darryl Glenn, Clark and board chairman Dennis Hisey also spoke of the inability for the Sheriff's Office to function efficiently as the county and other agencies investigate the allegations. Clark called the allegations and ensuing investigation a "public distraction."

Hisey said the vote was not about whether Maketa is guilty of wrongdoing. He stressed that "like anyone else" Maketa is innocent until proven guilty and noted that the commission needs to focus on the best interest of the people of El Paso County.

The board cited Maketa's Policy and Personnel Manual in its statement Thursday. The manual states that officers "will behave in a manner that does not bring discredit to their agencies or themselves." It goes on to say, "The officer's personal behavior must be beyond reproach."

"Our sheriff has chosen to exclude himself from those high standards," Littleton said.

The commissioners' call for Maketa to resign is simply a suggestion. The sheriff is an elected official and the only way to remove him from office would be through a recall election.

Ryan Parsell, a spokesman with the county Clerk & Recorder's Office, said if a petition was filed seeking a recall election, the vote would likely not take place until November. Parsell said 44,000 signatures are needed and would likely not be filed more than 90 days before the November election. In that case, the county would not schedule a special vote to speed up the process, he said.

Parsell said no one had applied for a petition by Friday afternoon and added that the deadline to submit a petition for Maketa's recall is July 12.

At least one informal petition was posted online at change.org. But that "straw poll," which had 53 signatures by midafternoon Thursday, has no legal authority.

Two people addressed the commissioners during the public comment portion of Thursday's meeting.

Brian Scott, who said he has been a resident of El Paso County since 1968, volunteered to serve as interim sheriff and called for all five commissioners to step down from their positions of leadership because Glenn had called the allegations against Maketa "the worst-kept secret in the county."

Scott said there has been a cover-up of Maketa's alleged actions for years and labeled it a "conspiracy of secrecy" within county administration.

Glenn said he stands behind his "worst-kept secret" statement. He said he conducted his assessment after The Gazette's May 23 report and determined that there is evidence dating back to 2008 to justify the county's investigation of Maketa.

Henry Allen, the president of the Colorado Springs NAACP, also addressed the board on Thursday and gave his support for the commissioners' vote and investigation.

"I know you have a difficult task ahead, but I know you can do it," said Allen, a former deputy.

 
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