The El Paso County Sheriff's Office is responding to an independent report that says Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey did nothing wrong in his handling of the Black Forest Fire.
The full final report is not being released yet, but in a three page statement released to the media, the board says the investigation found "no professional misconduct" on the part of Harvey during the June 2013 fire.
The investigator hired by the board looked into allegations made by El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa that Harvey mishandled the Black Forest Fire. Maketa said Harvey didn't turn over command of the fire to the Sheriff's Office fast enough and it delayed resources from getting into the fire fight.
The Sheriff's Office and the fire board released two conflicting timelines of what happened during the initial hours of the Black Forest Fire.
In the statement, the board blasts Maketa for his handling of this situation, saying "This misadventure started because one elected official saw fit, for whatever personal or political reason, to make unsubstantiated allegations about our chief's performance following the onset of the Black Forest Fire." The statement also included harsh words for the media, reading in part quote "We must also acknowledge how disappointed we are in the conduct of some Colorado Springs media outlets in simply running with the allegations, and broadcasting untruths, without a speck of legitimate journalistic enterprise to establish their validity."
|CLICK HERE to read the full statement | CLICK HERE to read a summary of the report|
The statement is also critical of several media outlets, including KRDO NewsChannel 13, for filing open records requests for information about Harvey's handling of the fire. The board says in the statement that the requests unnecessarily cost the department at least $3,000 in legal fees.
The Black Forest Fire Board also announced a new partnership in the statement. It says it is forming a new Fire Authority along with the Donald Wescott Fire District.
The Sheriff's Office provided the following response to the findings outlined in the report:
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office has reviewed the executive summary containing the findings of the independent investigator that the Black Forest Fire District Board hired in December 2013 to determine if Black Forest Fire Chief Harvey mismanaged the Black Forest Fire during its early stages. The summary is general in nature and omits many specific times of significant actions and events. The decision to launch such an inquiry rests with the Board and the results are an internal matter surrounding an employee of the Black Forest Fire Department. It is not necessary for the Sheriff’s Office to comment on any employee related decisions the Board may or may not make as a result of the inquiry.
"The Sheriff’s Office would be remise however to not address several inaccuracies in this report concerning actual timelines for specific actions and events that took place during the first few hours of the fire on June 11, 2013. A full timeline including radio transmissions was posted on the Sheriff’s Office web site within the first few months of the fire. Today, the Sheriff’s Office has now posted a copy of the Black Forest Fire Board Executive Summary of this investigation and excerpts from this summary in contrast with actual radio transmissions and dispatch timelines that refute the accuracy of this report. Furthermore, the investigator states that Assistant Fire Marshal Scott Campbell declined to interview with the investigator however email documents between Sheriff Maketa and the investigator reveal the Sheriff requested questions from the investigator that Mr. Campbell could answer and those questions were never received. This is another example of the inaccuracies reported by this investigator.
To address the question as to why Sheriff Maketa made such allegations about Chief Harvey’s performance of duty was in direct response to Chief Harvey’s interference with an official investigation into the cause and origin of this fire by his inappropriate and irresponsible statement that the fire was most likely deliberately or intentionally started without any evidence or facts to substantiate such a statement and is another glaring example of his irresponsible actions.
To any extent the Board’s internal investigation deviates from its original intent and speaks to the fire investigation on topics like cause or origin, Sheriff Terry Maketa reminds members of the community his Office is conducting the official investigation. Once all scientific analysis of items of evidence is complete, and all investigative efforts have been concluded, the Sheriff’s Office will eagerly provide information to the public. The information released by the Sheriff’s Office will be grounded by facts and evidence and will withstand the scrutiny of the court if necessary.
It is unfortunate that this report contains many opinions and general information not based on facts that can be substantiated by actual evidence such as radio transmissions and recorded phone calls. Therefore, it is important that the public has the opportunity to review the report and actual evidence so they can form their own conclusions and may refer to El Paso County Sheriff’s Office website to review all of this information.