Colorado senator, sheriff escalate war of words on Facebook

While the first of Colorado’s several contentious gun bills may be ready for Gov. John Hickenlooper’s signature as soon as today, the dust has far from settled in the war of words between Senate President John Morse and El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa.

The two are now duking it out on Facebook over whether Senate Democrats threatened to withhold pay raises for county sheriffs who opposed the gun bills.

On Saturday, Maketa told a Colorado Springs radio station that a member of the County Sheriffs of Colorado had emailed him that unnamed Senate Democrats were angry at CSOC because of its members’ opposition to gun bills, and that they may withhold a vote on a bill to raise sheriffs’ pay.

On his Facebook page Tuesday, Maketa, a Republican, went into more detail. He wrote that the email implied that Senate Democrats wanted the lobbying organization’s support of Senate Bill 197, which would prevent those accused of domestic violence from possessing firearms, in exchange for a favorable view of the pay raise issue.

Maketa has not said who sent the email or where the information in it came from, but he quoted it, in part, as saying, “I have been advised by a reliable source at the Capitol that the Dems are seriously not pleased with the CSOC positions on the gun bills, and given the potential for a real salary bill to be introduced as you shall see from a follow-up email from (an unnamed sheriff), support of SB197 would put us in a more favorable light for salary bill support from the Dems.”

Maketa called this “extortion” and said he would call for an investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office.

His Facebook post also complained that not all those who showed up in opposition to the bills were given a chance to testify when they were heard by Senate committees last week.

“Historically, any citizen would be allowed to speak if they arrived at the Capitol early and signed up on testimony records,” he wrote. “Although sign up sheets were in place and citizens including myself signed up, we were completely disregarded.”

“It’s estimated the number of people in attendance reached 1,000,” he continued. “I spoke to several and was told they just wanted their voice to be heard. Many of them had never been to the Capitol, let alone testified on any bill. Some brought their children as a lesson in civics and sacrificed a day at work to participate in the law making process. Unfortunately, what they hoped for never happened.”

Morse fired back on Tuesday, using his own Facebook page to call out Maketa for “lying to the public.”

“In no way did I, nor my office, threaten the sheriffs that if they did not support these bills, they would not get a pay increase,” he wrote.

Morse said that he would support a bill to raise county officials’ salaries only if half the Republicans in the Democratic-controlled state legislature also agreed to support such a measure.

“My point was that a salary increase for elected county officials would only occur if there was broad bi-partisan support,” he wrote. “So far, they have been unable to do obtain these co-sponsors.”