A Colorado sheriff with growing popularity in the Republican Party is accused of promoting three subordinate workers with whom he allegedly had sexual relationships, according to an explosive investigation by the Colorado Springs Gazette.
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa — who became more widely known around Colorado because of his vocal stance against new gun control laws — sent scores of sexually explicit messages to the three employees in his office, the Gazette reported.
The messages included at least one photo of himself naked from the torso up, taken in what appears to be a bathroom, with the notation “wish you were here.”
The story said Maketa — who is married — had sexual relationships with his second-in-command, Undersheriff Paula Presley; comptroller Dorene Cardarelle; and the head trainer for dispatchers, Tiffany Huntz. It also alleged that he traveled with the women on the taxpayers’ dime, gave them raises and promoted them to positions they aren’t qualified to hold.
The allegations about the relationships were contained in a formal complaint about Maketa and the work environment at the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office filed with county commissioners by three commanders. The commanders accused Maketa of “repeated sexual impropriety, discrimination, creating a hostile work environment, violating the civil rights of those who work in the Sheriff’s Office, using intimidation to keep people quiet about his misdeeds and removing almost all oversight of the $60 million Sheriff’s Office annual budget,” according to the Gazette.
The commanders were suspended the day they filed the report, according to the Gazette.
In separate comments to the newspaper, Maketa and the women each denied the allegations.
“Your questions are meritless and completely inappropriate,” Maketa wrote in an email to the Gazette on Thursday. “I have never had an inappropriate sexual relationship with the three individuals you named. If you publish anything to the contrary, I am fully prepared to take legal action.”
The lengthy article quotes several named sources, including former employees of the Sheriff’s Office, and cites hundreds of email messages obtained from the comptroller’s computer in which she and Maketa “discussed sex and their love for one another.”
Each of the women was allegedly promoted and given pay raises because of their relationships with Maketa, not because of their qualifications. In fact, several named sources told the Gazette that the women were distinctly unqualified for their jobs.
Sources also told the Gazette that women who rebuffed Maketa’s advances were not promoted.
Due to term limits, Maketa cannot seek reelection to the office he has held since 2003. But because of his high-profile stance against Colorado’s new gun laws, and his actions during several destructive wildfires last summer, his name has come up as a possible candidate for statewide office or for the U.S. Senate.
But on Friday, at least one Republican leader called for an investigation into the allegations.
“These are serious allegations that deserve serious scrutiny,” Jeff Hays, chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party, told Denver’s 9News. “El Paso County citizens demand and deserve the highest standards of performance and integrity from their elected officials, and Sheriff’s Office employees deserve fair treatment in a system based on performance excellence.”
“We will not rush to judgment,” he said. “However, we do demand open, unbiased examination of these allegations out of respect for the Sheriff’s Office, El Paso County voters, and all parties directly involved.”
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