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More complaints against embattled sheriff uncovered

More complaints against embattled sheriff uncovered

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - As more employee complaints against El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa come to light, employees now have a new way to report grievances.

Commissioner Peggy Littleton said she wanted Sheriff's Office employees to have a confidential avenue to report problems at the workplace.  

"They've said 'help us,'" Littleton said at Thursday's Board of County Commissioners meeting.  "Help us have a way that we can privately, without incrimination or retribution, be able to express what their experiences have been."

Littleton said the new process allows employees to write the information and have it reviewed by an independent investigative firm -- not the county attorney's office and not county commissioners.

On Thursday, the Board of County Commissioners delivered a unanimous vote of no confidence in Maketa and asked him to resign immediately.  Commissioners said that even while investigators look into allegations of sexual favoritism, hostile work environment and misuse of taxpayer funds, Maketa should not be the sheriff.  They said it was not a matter of guilt or innocence, but trust, especially with the upcoming fire and flood season in southern Colorado.

Meanwhile, KRDO NewsChannel 13 obtained two new notices of lawsuits filed by two former Sheriff's Office employees.  Emory Gerhart, a former sergeant with the Sheriff's Office, claims Maketa and Undersheriff Paula Presley were involved in a pattern of abusive behavior and harassment to punish Gerhart for supporting sheriff's candidate Bill Elder rather than John Anderson.  The notice was filed on March 6, 2014.

In another notice of lawsuit filed May 19, former Sgt. Charles Kull cites similar experiences, saying he also supported Elder and was intimidated and bullied by Maketa and Presley.  

Both Gerhart and Kull are represented by attorney Shimon Kohn.

KRDO NewsChannel 13 talked to an employment attorney not associated with any of the claims involving the Sheriff's Office.  Gary Kramer reviewed the claims and said they are "very serious."

"Both of them now allege constructive discharge, meaning they felt they had no choice but to resign as a result of the actions they experienced," Kramer said.  "I have no doubt that the county will be looking at them very closely."

Kramer said this is probably the tip of the iceberg when it comes to lawsuits against Maketa.  

"It would not surprise any of us to hear of additional claims coming out of the Sheriff's Office at this point," he said.

Littleton said the new reporting form was sent to every Sheriff's Office employee on Friday and will also be posted on the Sheriff's Office website.

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