One of Colorado’s most outspoken sheriffs is accused of pressuring his commanders to award him with a commendation usually presented to a rank-and-file deputy, according to two unnamed commanders who complained about it to the Colorado Springs Gazette.
In response, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa promised to root out the leakers and remove them from their positions on the command staff, calling them “too cowardly and dishonest to remain in positions of leadership.”
The controversy surrounds the annual interoffice nomination to the One Hundred Club, which the Gazette called “a prestigious recognition for first responders who go above and beyond the call of duty.”
Normally, the heads of various divisions meet to discuss their nominees. Never in its 20-year-history has the honor been given to a sitting sheriff, according to the Gazette. This year, the vote was unanimous in giving it to Maketa.
But the two commanders, who spoke to the Gazette on the condition of anonymity because they are afraid for their jobs, said they were pressured to vote for the boss.
“Why are we even bothering to take a vote?” said one participant in the meeting, according to one of the unnamed sources, after Maketa was nominated by his undersheriff before any other nominees were discussed. “No one is going to vote against him.”
“I think it’s crap,” the source told the newspaper. “This is an award that is supposed to be for line-level guys, not someone behind a desk.”
Maketa wasn’t quoted in the original story because he was on vacation, but he fired back with a response posted on the sheriff’s website, calling the whole dustup a “character assassination by two commanders who seem to have some kind of score to settle.”
“Calling the Gazette each time they disagree is completely inappropriate and frankly, immature and [they] will be held accountable for these inappropriate actions,” he wrote. “Immunity is not granted simply because one claims they could be retaliated against. In this case, this time, the sheriff will hold them accountable.”
“They are a cancer and detrimental to our organizational success,” he continued.
Maketa has a long history of squaring off publicly with his opponents. One of the most outspoken sheriffs opposing Colorado’s 2013 gun control laws, he engaged in a Facebook war of words with former state Sen. John Morse, who was later recalled for his support of the bills.
He also ripped a local fire chief for his handling of a destructive wildfire, calling statements by the chief “reckless” and “irresponsible.” An investigation later cleared the chief of mismanaging the fire response.
Maketa, who is term-limited, was also at the center of a long Gazette investigation into alleged back-room deal-making in the upcoming election to replace him, accused by his opponents of backing a longtime political foe in order to protect his backers in the sheriff’s office from a purge.
In his response to the Gazette article, Maketa noted that several high-ranking officials have received the One Hundred Club award in the past, and that it’s not meant solely for field-level employees.
According to the Gazette, the winner receives a gold watch. The award ceremony is May 20.
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