Travel documents show El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa spent thousands of dollars of public money to travel to law enforcement conferences with female subordinates with whom he is accused of having sexual affairs.
KRDO NewsChannel 13 obtained the documents Tuesday afternoon. They show Maketa took trips to Nevada, Florida, Breckenridge and elsewhere with the female employees.
Maketa traveled at least 17 times with the female employees. The records show 14 of the trips cost a total of more than $10,000.
Colorado prisons director Tom Clements was killed during the most recent trip, in March 2013. Travel documents show Maketa stayed in Las Vegas for three more days.
The Gazette reports that former employees say some of the trips were to law enforcement conferences, but that Maketa would often skip the meetings to be with the women.
Maketa has apologized to employees but said he will not resign. He is accused of discrimination, budget improprieties and creating a hostile work environment.
On Tuesday, Maketa made his first public appearance since the allegations surfaced. While he was presenting the Black Forest Fire After Action Report, he could not avoid media questions about trust issues in the Sheriff's Office. Maketa reiterated that he has no plans to resign before his term ends.
"I'm staying here until this investigation is completed," Maketa said. "I think the community deserves to hear those facts before any more judgments, executions and determinations of guilt are made."
The Board of County Commissioners delivered a unanimous vote of no confidence nearly two weeks ago and demanded Maketa's resignation.
Commissioner Peggy Littleton told KRDO NewsChannel 13 Tuesday that commissioners were not able to attend the press conference.
"I didn't have the opportunity to see the press conference nor attend it," Littleton said. "It was conveniently scheduled during the Board of County Commissioners meeting. Intentional or unintentional? I don't know."
Littleton said she believed there is a "vacuum of leadership" at the Sheriff's Office and again asked Maketa to resign. Last week, KRDO broke the news that Undersheriff Paula Presley is on paid sick leave. Three bureau chiefs are also on unpaid administrative leave because the Sheriff's Office said they violated policies. Littleton said those issues concern her.
"The undersheriff is gone. Command staff are put on leave of absence. It makes me very concerned about who is going to be in charge if we have a fire, flood or another incident," she said.
Maketa addressed the issue at the press conference, saying others have stepped in to fill vacancies.
"What you read isn't always true," he said. "Yeah, I'm down three commanders, but I've been down that many on vacation."
Maketa said the scandal only affects him and not operations at the Sheriff's Office.
"We have 786 employees in this office and every day every one of them is coming to work and doing their job," he said. "The distractions that I'm responsible for have not in any way impacted their duties and responsibilities. I am absolutely confident that whether it's a robbery, a homicide or a major event, be it a fire or flood, our office will respond better than it did at the last event."
The Sheriff's Office released the below response about the trips:
In light of the Gazette article, “Sheriff’s Office releases travel records for Sheriff Terry Maketa, female subordinates,” Sheriff Maketa would like to take an opportunity to provide facts surrounding his business travel.
Due to the Sheriff’s responsibilities and oversight of all areas of the Office which span across the Law Enforcement Bureau, Detention Bureau and Support Services, he is required to travel for business purposes with a high level of frequency. In addition to his attendance at various conferences, it is common for command level personnel or other Office members, male and female, to also attend these conferences in an effort to stay up to date on best practices within the Law Enforcement industry and remain current with training mandates.
Since Sheriff Maketa took office in 2003, he has traveled for business on 95 occasions. During all trips, any expenses which were directly related to the conference and within the guidelines of the County budget policy were deducted from the Office budget. Any expenses the Sheriff or any other employee may have incurred outside the conference schedule such as site seeing in the local area or recreational activities would not have been billed to the County but paid by the Sheriff or the employees themselves.
Sheriff Maketa is committed to holding public comment on the allegations expressed in the EEOC complaints until the independent investigation is complete. However, it’s concerning that local media relies solely on unsupported accusations for their coverage, thus exaggerating stories and implying a level of wrongdoing that is untrue. For example, in the article which appeared today, accusations were made by retired Chief Joe Breister regarding Tiffany Huntz using her own money to purchase airline tickets to join the Sheriff on two trips to Las Vegas. What is not mentioned is the fact that on each of these trips Sheriff Maketa’s wife, Vicki, and Tiffany Huntz’s husband, John, were also present.
Other inaccuracies are also printed and insinuated in the article.
Sheriff Maketa respectfully asks citizens and members of the media to allow the independent investigation to be completed and rely on the facts it will reveal.