COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa says that the controversy surrounding a service award is irrelevant.

The Hundred Club of Colorado Springs recognized three outstanding officers Tuesday from the Colorado Springs Fire Department, Colorado Springs Police Department and the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

The Hundred Club was established in 1994 and its purpose is to support the families of fallen law enforcement officers and firefighters.  Every year, the club awards one person from each department to recognize an officer who exemplified "consistently exceptional performance and service to the community."

The controversy began earlier this month when Sheriff Maketa was nominated to receive the award.  Unnamed commanders told The Gazette they felt pressured to nominate Maketa and thought that other people were more deserving of the award.

In the history of the award, an acting police chief, fire chief or sheriff has never been honored.  

Last week, the sheriff's office said the award would instead go to Deputy Ed Kafel.  KRDO NewsChannel 13 also learned that three top commanders were placed on administrative leave.  The sheriff's office confirmed an EEOC complaint was filed by the commanders, but said the disciplinary action was not due to the complaints but to a pending investigation into several policy violations.

Kafel has been involved in the training of more than 600 recruits in his 12 years at the sheriff's office.  Maketa introduced Kafel at the award ceremony and Kafel accepted the award on behalf of the sheriff's office training section.

"With the issues that took place in our office, we went ahead and let the decision be made by our citizens' advisory council, and I think they looked at it and saw Kafel's commitment," Maketa told KRDO at the award ceremony.  "I mean, he has touched so many people and so many recruits through the years."

When asked about the controversy leading up the award, Maketa directed the focus to the award recipients.

"Whatever led up to it is irrelevant," he said.  "They are the award winners and I think they deserve the honor of being recognized clean as can be."

The Colorado Springs Police Department awarded Sgt. Andy James who has been with the department since 1985.  The Colorado Springs Fire Department honored Lt. Mark Romero who has been with the department since 1993.

All three award recipients were met with standing ovations.

The sheriff's office has made no further comment regarding the three commanders who were placed on administrative leave.