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Gazette Premium Content Sheriff's Office releases internal affairs files for deputy it claims leaked information

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By Stephen Hobbs, stephen.hobbs@gazette.com - Updated: June 20, 2014 at 11:13 am

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office released a portion of the personnel file for a female deputy it claims provided information to the Gazette for a story published Wednesday night about meetings ordered by Sheriff Terry Maketa to discuss morale.

A news release, which was posted and subsequently removed Thursday afternoon on the Sheriff's Office website, included a link to Kerry Linfoot's internal affairs file and claimed she "spoke of a meeting she was in" and "offered her own comments" to the Gazette.

The Gazette does not identify sources that it grants anonymity.

When reached by phone Thursday, Linfoot said she wanted to discuss the Sheriff's Office release with her attorney before speaking with the Gazette. She did not return subsequent calls for comment.

While the release was taken down from its website, Linfoot's internal affairs file remained available online. A link to the release also was posted on the Sheriff's Office Facebook page and was later removed; the Sheriff's Office also sent the link out on twitter.

The release said Linfoot, who has worked for the Sheriff's Office since February 2010, was the subject of internal investigations involving nine incidents of policy violations, five of which were sustained. It also said she is engaged to marry Sgt. Mike Schaller and that Schaller recently filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the Sheriff's Office and that he is currently the subject of a sexual harassment complaint.

A Sheriff's Office spokesman did not return requests for comment on the release or its removal from the website.

Joe Breister, a former bureau chief, said the release of the internal affairs file was "a means of intimidation to the rest of the office." He said internal affairs files "were never released for general purposes" in his 27 years with the Sheriff''s Office.

When asked about the mentioning of Linfoot's relationship with Schaller, Breister said, "I have no idea what nexus that has to anything."

Maketa is accused of sexual impropriety, discrimination, removing almost all oversight of the Sheriff's Office annual budget and creating a hostile work environment, according to a complaint filed to the El Paso Board of County Commissioners in mid-May by three of his commanders. They also filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and subsequent complaints have been filed.

In a May 31 video to Sheriff's Office employees, Maketa said he "engaged in inappropriate behavior in the past" and apologized for "not being forthright." He said he would not resign and intends to complete his third term, which ends Jan. 13, 2015.

The Sheriff's Office said "staff inspections are scheduled and conducted by the Internal Affairs Unit." According to the Sheriff's Office policy and procedure manual, the inspection process allows "the Sheriff's Office the opportunity to make a positive impact on personnel and procedures, recognize areas of outstanding performance, and take corrective action to improve deficient areas."

In the release, the Sheriff's Office said that "operational morale was one of the numerous topics discussed and the topic the least amount of time was spent on; this was true during discussions with all three patrol shifts."

On Tuesday, Maketa defended his administration to the El Paso County commissioners, who last month gave the sheriff a unanimous vote of no confidence.

Commissioner Peggy Littleton said Thursday she was "very concerned" with the release of a personnel file.

"He continues to step over the line and continues to put the citizens taxpayer dollars at risk," Littleton said. "Honestly, when you find yourself in a hole put the shovel down. Stop digging."

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