A Colorado Springs attorney said Thursday that the county's investigation into El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa is not independent.
Maketa is accused of having inappropriate relationships with three women and promoting them to positions they didn't deserve. He is also accused of creating a hostile work environment.
Attorney Erin Jensen is representing deputy Cliff Porter with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. Porter filed a formal complaint against the sheriff's office. The complaint said Porter was bullied by Maketa and Undersheriff Paula Presley in an attempt to influence Porter's vote for the next sheriff.
El Paso County launched an investigation into the allegations. The county hired Sherman & Howard law firm. The law firm then hired Mountain States Employers Council to conduct the investigation.
Jensen filed a notice of claim with the county and said it could face liability for some of the actions in the sheriff's office. Jensen is concerned that the investigators are building a case to help the defense, as opposed to seeking the truth behind the allegations.
"They advertise this to the public that this is quote an independent investigation, but what people need to realize is this is an investigation run by the defense attorneys. Of course they are going to spend all their efforts trying to defend the county," said Jensen.
El Paso County spokesperson Dave Rose said by email Thursday that the investigators were "fact finders." He said their purpose is to prove or disprove work place misconduct allegations.
Still, Jensen disagrees.
"If they really wanted to do a true independent investigation, they could have hired an outside firm that would have never defended them in the past and isn't going to defend them in the new lawsuit," said Jensen.
Jensen is also concerned about the Sheriff's Office involvement in the investigation.
Jensen received an email from Sheriff's Office attorney Charles Greenlee requesting Porter meet with the investigators. Jensen said he was "shocked and disappointed" by the email.
"The sheriff's attorney then contacts me and is saying he wants to set up an appointment with my client, at this time, and at this location. How can independent can that investigation be? And doesn't that raise questions about whether the sheriff is involved in this investigation? He knows who is speaking to them, when they are speaking to them, where they are speaking to them," said Jensen.
Greenlee said by email Thursday that the county attorney's office is now handling the scheduling.
"This is an ongoing investigation. Other than confirming that the county attorney's office is now handling the scheduling, there will be no comment until the investigation is complete and further direction is received," said Greenlee.
Jensen said there are alternative steps that could have been taken to seek the truth. He said the best option is to let the truth come out in court because there are safe guards in the legal process to prevent bias.
"I think people want answers and I think they want to figure out what happened and I think people are going to be looking for that when this independent investigation is done and I think they are going to be pretty disappointed," said Jensen.
Rose said by email Thursday:
"The Board of County Commissioners has given specific direction, consistent with prior employment investigations, of the following: they will not direct the investigation; they will only be updated concerning the general time frame of the investigation; they will not receive copies of witness interviews and they will not be briefed concerning the witness interviews.
Once the investigation is complete, they will be briefed on the general findings concluded from the investigation. They will not examine or review collected evidence.
The information gathered through this investigation may be used to prosecute and/or defend in lawsuits subject to applicable open record laws and court rules. This is a natural by-product of any employment claims investigation.
The investigator is interviewing those deemed to have knowledge relevant to the investigation. This includes individuals who contact the investigator as well as individuals the investigator wishes to contact. "