COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A commander stepped forward Wednesday to challenge allegations against him in the latest complaint that's surfaced against the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.
A deputy's complaint against the El Paso County Sheriff's Office was made public Tuesday, prompting the office to also make public an audio tape it said debunks one of the allegations.
Deputy Cliff Porter released his Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint to the Colorado Springs Gazette through his attorney, Erin Jensen.
|Commissioners respond to claims made by Attorney Erin Jensen. Click the link under "related content" to read.|
The seven-page complaint states Porter served as a delegate for his precinct at the El Paso County Republican Assembly and felt pressured to vote for John Anderson, who El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa endorsed to succeed him as sheriff.
The complaint also accuses Maketa of creating a hostile work environment based on sexual favoritism toward women.
The complaint highlights a specific incident during which Porter said he felt Maketa and Undersheriff Paula Presley tried to bully him and influence his vote at the El Paso County Republican Assembly.
The complaint said Porter was called into the office when he was off duty to meet with Presley, Maketa and Chief Al Harmon with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. He said the three claimed he made a political statement to a colleague while he was off duty at his home.
Porter denied the claim and said while he did have a private conversation, he did not make a political statement.
The complaint said this about the meeting on March 28:
"The verbal abuse continued for almost four hours and included Sheriff Maketa physically threatening Mr.Porter by getting within inches of Mr.Porter's face while berating him."
Porter also said he was told Maketa would have people "watching him."
The El Paso County Sheriff's Office released Harmon's personal recording of the meeting on March 28. It starts with Harmon assembling the recording device and then Porter entering the room.
On the recording, Presley explains to Porter that he was called in to discuss a memorandum that concerned her. A co-worker had written it after a conversation with Porter. The colleague had given him a call about a missing person's case. The colleague said Porter then made insensitive comments about the case. The colleague also said Porter said "craziness" around the office would end Saturday after people voted for the next sheriff in the El Paso County Republican Assembly.
Presley questioned Porter as to why it was necessary to make a political statement when a colleague was asking about a missing person's case. Maketa is first audible about halfway through the recording, questioning Porter's attitude and if it would be better suited for a different law enforcement agency.
Porter apologized for both his comments on the cold case as well as the upcoming election. Porter said it had been "crazy" around the office, deputies were nervous about their jobs and he encouraged newcomers to stay out of the politics involving the office.
"Ma'am, my perspective is with all the political stuff that's been going on, sometimes people... it seems crazy around (here). People seem worried and frustrated. Guys on patrol are worried about this and that, and it just seems nuts, man," said Porter in the audio recording.
Presley said there hasn't been a deputy let go because of a political statement. She also said she was more concerned with Porter's attitude toward the missing person's case, than with Porter's political feelings.
"I want you to be sorry for what you said, not sorry you got caught," said Presley in the recording.
At the end of the recording, Porter reiterates his apology and then exits the room.
The El Paso County Sheriff's Office said the meeting ended there. However, Jensen said the incident lasted four hours, and after Porter left the room, he continued to be berated and intimidated for his political statement.
"That simply is not accurate. This ordeal lasted for almost four hours," said Jensen.
Commander John San Agustin spoke Wednesday about allegations leveled against him in the complaint.
The complaint said that Agustin made Detective Lt. Robert Jaworski "write a memorandum concerning his supposed conversation with Mr.Porter" that occurred in a parking lot where Porter made alleged political comments.
The complaint said Jaworski told Porter he was "pressured" to write the memorandum and if he didn't do so, he would be "terminated."
Agustin said that's false.
"What I think would be fair to anyone looking at all the things that have gone on is to allow the investigative process to work its course," said Agustin.
He also said the meeting with Porter, Presley, Maketa and Harmon was strictly to discuss Porter's insensitive comments about a missing person's case.
"What I want to make very clear is that this had nothing to do with politics. The reason for the meeting was to talk about the comments that were made in regards to that case," said Agustin.
Jensen said it is very obvious in the audio that his client was being reprimanded based on his political statement.
Porter's complaint follows the theme of a complaint made public last week.
On Friday, May 23, 2014, The Colorado Springs Gazette broke the news about the complaint that had been filed against Maketa.
The complaint filed by Commanders Rodney Gehrett, Mitchel Lincoln and Robert King alleges that Maketa had a sexual relationship with three subordinates. The commanders claim that those subordinates are Undersheriff Paula Presley, comptroller Dorene Cardarelle and head of training for dispatchers, Tiffany Huntz.
The women have denied having a sexual relationship with Maketa.