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Sheriff's Office releases information on whistle-blowers

Sheriff's Office releases information on whistleblowers

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The El Paso County Sheriff's Office released personal information Thursday about a deputy who spoke up about morale issues in the office.

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa is accused of having inappropriate relationships with three women in his office and promoting them to positions they didn't deserve. He also is accused of creating a hostile work environment.  Three commanders have filed a formal complaint against him. Since then, at least two other employees have also filed formal complaints.

On Wednesday night The Gazette published on its website  a story citing a deputy who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.

The deputy told Gazette reporter Dave Philipps that the meetings are being conducted by internal affairs deputies.

She said that in one such meeting, someone said that the credibility of the Sheriff's Office has been damaged by the recent scandal involving Sheriff Maketa. She told Philipps that some deputies have reported getting cat calls and other negative comments about the situation while on patrol.

While The Gazette withheld the deputy's name in its report, the Sheriff's Office provided that detail and much more in its response.

In an email sent to KRDO NewsChannel 13, other news outlets and law enforcement agencies, the Sheriff's Office said that the deputy who went to The Gazette was Kerry Linfoot.

The email said that Linfoot has been with the Sheriff's Office since 2010, during which time she has been under investigation by the internal affairs office for nine alleged policy violations, five of which were sustained.

The email also says that Linfoot is engaged to be married to Sgt. Mike Schaller, who recently filed an EEOC complaint against the office and who is currently under investigation after a sexual harassment complaint was filed against him.

KRDO NewsChannel 13 obtained a copy of the formal complaint. The complaint said Schaller accuses Maketa of sexual favoritism that created an "intimidating, hostile and offensive work environment."

The Sheriff's Office goes on to explain in its response that the meeting Linfoot was referring to was part of a routine staff inspection during which numerous topics were discussed, including morale. The Sheriff's Office said the same topics were discussed in meetings with all three patrol shifts.

The Sheriff's Office included a link to Linfoot's internal affairs file in the email.

Attorney Erin Jensen, who represents Linfoot and Schaller, said he was shocked and surprised by the email.

"My client has First Amendment rights. She is allowed to speak out and she didn't violate policy to do that. She told that truth which a lot of people have been asking to come out in this situation," said Jensen.

KRDO NewsChannel 13 was not able to speak with Linfoot or Schaller because Jensen was worried about backlash if they came forward. Jensen did share how they felt in light of the information made public.

"I think it's hard to convey in words the impact this has on my clients. They have dedicated their lives to public service. They put their lives on the line every day for all of us. And the last thing I think they need is to be treated like this by from the Sheriff's Office," said Jensen.

Jensen said Linfoot was not contacted by the Sheriff's Office before the information was sent out. She was made aware of the email by a friend from another law enforcement agency who saw it.

Maketa told El Paso County commissioners at a meeting on Tuesday that day-to-day operations inside his office were not impacted by the scandal.  Maketa said morale was not low and his office continued to move forward.

Jensen said his clients are victims of retaliation for speaking the truth.

"She (Linfoot) was stating what was wrong and what deputies were facing on the street. I think the sheriff is upset because it didn't fit nicely into his story he has been giving to the board of county commissioners that everything is fine and his actions haven't impacted the operations of the Sheriff's Office," said Jensen.

The Sheriff's Office has refused to comment on the scandal. It said it will refrain from commenting until the investigation into the accusations is complete.

However, after Deputy Cliff Porter filed a formal complaint against the office, it released a personal recording of a meeting with him.

KRDO NewsChannel 13 has filed Colorado Open Records Act Requests for personnel files. The Sheriff's Office has been working on the requests for more than a week.

It released Linfoot's personnel file one day after she spoke out.

"This is a pattern and practice of the sheriff to release things that he wants to do and paint people in a bad light that speak out against him," said Jensen.

KRDO NewsChannel 13 has contacted the Sheriff's Office to question the release of the records but has not gotten a response.


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