El Paso County Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to request Sheriff Terry Maketa to resign amid allegations of misconduct while in office.
Credit: Obtained by the Colorado Springs Gazette from an El Paso County Sheriff's Office computer server
County Commissioners for El Paso County are also outlining some changes they think need to be made moving forward. Among the ideas, tighter term limits for both sheriffs and district attorneys.
The suggestions were made after the commissioners met in an executive session concerning allegations of abuses of power by Sheriff Terry Maketa while in office.
The allegations, coming in waning months of Maketa's term as sheriff, broke May 23 in an article by the Colorado Springs Gazette.
What the allegations are
The Gazette's article contains a letter written by the top three commanders from the sheriff's office, which outlines the Equal Employment Opportunity complaint they made to the federal government. 11 News has made a CORA (Colorado Open Records Act) request for this letter.
Based on the text of the letter that the Gazette obtained, the sheriff allegedly gave preferential treatment to women with whom he had sexual relationships, including promotions and pay raises.
11 News has obtained a series of emails between the sheriff and two of his female employees. The majority of the emails are reportedly between Maketa and comptroller Dorene Cardarelle, and are intimate and sexual in nature.
I am very happy that the desire won't diminish...my desire to touch you will never diminish either...I do wish I was in your arms right now feeling your touch. I'd just love to be in your arms than any other place.-Excerpt from email dated March 10, 2009 from Cardarelle to Maketa.
I wish we were in bed all cuddled! We better think about getting some rest my sexy love. God I wish I could be touching you right now! Xo xo xo-Email dated March 10, 2009 from Maketa to Cardarelle
The emails can be viewed by clicking the link on the side of the page.
The commanders also accuse the sheriff of taking trips with women he was having affairs with--and use taxpayer money to fund them. The commanders say Maketa and Cardarelle made the bulk of the money decisions for the department, thus using the department's $60 million budget primarily at their own discretion.
The sheriff's response
The El Paso County Sheriff's Office responded May 23 to the allegations against Sheriff Terry Maketa.
A spokesperson released the following statement:
"At this time, upon the advice of legal counsel, Sheriff Terry Maketa has no comment. An independent outside investigator is conducting the investigation and the Sheriff plans to fully cooperate in every way, both legally and with the investigation. Once the investigation is completed, then any comments or statements will be forthcoming."
Then on Tuesday, the Sheriff's Office sent a media release in response to the investigation and the call for his resignation.
Sheriff Terry Maketa will not be commenting on the litigation, the allegations or the investigations. Sheriff Maketa is committed to a fair and impartial investigation based on facts and law and asks all responsible parties to respect the legal process.
Sheriff Maketa was duly elected by the citizens of El Paso County and has seven months remaining in his term. His intention is to complete the term to which he has been elected.
Also Tuesday, Maketa approved the release of a 50-minute-long taped conversation between himself and a deputy who filed a complaint with the EEOC. In the complaint, the deputy stated that he had been harassed by the sheriff and undersheriff about who he was going to vote for as the new sheriff.
The sheriff's office contests that account, and says the deputy was in trouble for a comment he had made about the case. They say the tape refutes the deputy's story. A link to that tape can be found on the side of the page.
Response of officials
Commissioner Sallie Clark confirmed to 11 News on May 23 that there is an investigation going on and they are taking it very seriously, but says that because it's a personal issue they are not commenting on it.
In a letter to Maketa from the El Paso County commissioners dated May 14, the commissioners told the sheriff that they received a letter from three county employees requesting an investigation into Maketa. The commissioners told Maketa accusations included "complaints surrounding hostile and threatening work environment and sexual discrimination in the workplace."
A link to the entire letter is available on the side of the page.
The district attorney's office also confirmed to 11 News that they are reviewing materials that have been presented to their office.
The day after the news broke about the magnitude of allegations against Maketa, Maketa's soon-to-be successor Bill Elder, released a statement regarding the allegations. Elder will become the El Paso County sheriff in January of next year.
An El Paso County commissioner has called for Terry Maketa to step down or put himself on administrative leave amid explosive allegations of abuses of power while sheriff of El Paso County.
Commissioner Peggy Littleton said at a county commissioners meeting Tuesday that she speaks for herself and not on behalf of the board. She said Maketa should either resign immediately or place himself on administrative leave.
Elder's statement reads:
"I am saddened by the allegations. There obviously needs to be a full and comprehensive investigation of these allegations, and the legal process needs to run its course. I do not think it would be appropriate for me to comment on the allegations any further.
I can tell you, however, that as sheriff, I will serve with integrity."
In the commissioner's meeting Tuesday, our reporter got the chance to view a letter written by a lawyer representing a "line level employee of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office," which called for Clark, Commissioner Lathen and county attorney Amy Folsom to recuse from the investigation due to potential conflict of interest. The letter, dated May 26, states that the three women are close friends of Maketa, and alleges that at least two of the women were aware of some of his misconduct.
The letter alleges Clark received an email in 2010 containing similar complaints towards Maketa. Clark allegedly forwarded the email to Maketa instead of initiating an independent investigation.
Commissioner Darryl Glenn called for an executive meeting to discuss the letter's allegation.
The letter also alleges that Maketa reached out to Folsom after one of the women he was having an affair with got injured on a ski trip the pair took together.
"Ms. Folsom is said to be the very first person that Sheriff Terry Maketa reached out to in a panicked phone call to assist getting advice in covering up the situation."-Excerpt from letter
What happens next
County commissioners do not have the power to make Maketa step down before his term expires. They can only censure him and urge him to step down if anything comes from their investigation. Thursday's decision is symbolic; the commissioners cannot force the sheriff to resign.