2 Settlements Pending in Claims against El Paso County Sheriff's Office, Former Sheriff Maketa

The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO), May 8, 2015 | Go to article overview

2 Settlements Pending in Claims against El Paso County Sheriff's Office, Former Sheriff Maketa


Almost a year to the day after the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners launched an investigation against then-sheriff Terry Maketa, it will consider on Tuesday paying more than $200,000 to settle two claims against the former sheriff.

The claims, filed in March and May 2014 by then-sergeants Emory Gerhart and Charles Kull, were brought against Maketa, former Undersheriff Paula Presley, the Sheriff's Office and El Paso County. Gerhart and Kull resigned from the Sheriff's Office in December 2013.

The proposed settlements for monetary damages, $120,000 for Kull and $87,920 for Gerhart, are the first by the county since accusations of sexual impropriety, discrimination, removal of oversight of the Sheriff's Office annual budget and creating a hostile work environment clouded the final year of Maketa's third term in office.

They come as the Colorado Bureau of Investigation is looking into possible criminal charges against Maketa on behalf of the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office and with the assistance of the FBI and the Colorado Attorney General's Office.

The investigation is ongoing, CBI spokeswoman Susan Medina said Friday. Lee Richards, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney's Office declined to comment on the status of the investigation, directing all questions to the CBI.

Gerhart's claim, filed March 6, 2014, accused Maketa and Presley of "a continuing pattern of harassment and emotional abuse," as a result of his support of Elder's candidacy for sheriff. After an internal affairs file for Elder was reported missing in April 2013, Maketa said Elder and his supporters were behind its disappearance. In media reports, the claim says, Maketa "implicated" Gerhart in "the theft of the internal affairs file."

Maketa and Presley used internal affairs investigations as a way to "intimidate and bully" Gerhart and the former sheriff tried to block Gerhart from joining the Fountain Police Department, according to the claim. Maketa called the city manager and told him not to hire Gerhart, the claim says.

Kull's May 19 claim accuses Maketa and Presley of "harassment," "emotional abuse," and "retaliatory treatment," in part due to his support of Elder's candidacy. Maketa also mentioned him in media reports as being involved in the suspected missing file, according to the claim. After resigning as a result of the "continued intimidation, bullying, harassment, belittling and abuse," Kull's claim accuses Maketa of contacting the Fountain city manager to block his employment with the police department.

In a Jan. 3, 2014 intra-office memo, Maketa said both Kull and Gerhart resigned after they were asked to report to the Sheriff's Office to be questioned regarding results of a lie detector test.

"They both showed deception regarding the same question," the memo said.

Maketa, in the memo, denied claims that the two were "forced out," saying both were being investigated for "deliberate policy violations."

Back wages, vacation and sick pay and attorney fees make up the settlement totals for both men.

Shimon Kohn, a Colorado Springs defense attorney who represents Gerhart and Kull, declined to comment Friday on the proposed settlements. Each claim sought $750,000.

Jackie Kirby, a Sheriff's Office spokeswoman, said Friday that Gerhart was reinstated as a sergeant in January and that Sheriff Bill Elder planned to reinstate Kull, also as a sergeant, by the end of the month. …

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