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As questions swirl, Sheriff Maketa's opponent weighs in 

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa's second-in-command approved a dispatcher's request to pose nude for pay in 2008, after her nude pictures were already on the Web and one day after she was issued a reprimand for conduct unbecoming and other policy violations.

"I concur," Undersheriff Paul Zani, now retired, wrote on May 29, 2008. "Meets policy." He agreed with Communications Manager Liz Brown, who noted Huntz's request met the department's off-duty employment policy, which doesn't prohibit nude modeling.

Zani's approval came one day after the dispatcher, Tiffany Huntz, was reprimanded for staging an off-color joke on another dispatcher using the sheriff's emergency communications network. A bureau chief also accused her of lying during the Internal Affairs investigation, but Zani later overturned that finding. (See last week's cover story, "Star treatment," for more.)

Zani, who owns a Gunnison County mountain home with Maketa, did not return two phone calls seeking comment about why he approved the request; whether he saw the photos in advance; and whether the sheriff knew about the request before it was approved. Nor did Brown return a phone call seeking comment.

Huntz's motivation

Maketa said in a March 9 interview that he knew very little about Huntz's photos, which have appeared on several Web sites, including photobucket.com and myspace.com, for at least two years.

(Sources say the photos were subject to an Internal Affairs investigation, but the sheriff's office refused to release two IA reports involving Huntz, saying they involved her "distant past" and a business she used to own, and that her privacy concerns outweigh the public's interest.)

The sites since have been removed from public access, but photos of Huntz — totally nude and partially clothed — were still on the Onyx Fine Art Portraiture Web site as of Wednesday and were on the site, by her own admission according to documents obtained last week by the Independent, when she submitted her May 19, 2008, request to get paid for modeling while off duty.

In her memo, Huntz asked permission to pose for "fashion/casual to artistic nudes," saying her modeling profile was already listed on onemodelplace.com and that her pictures were posted on the Onyx site.

Taken verbatim from her memo: "I have never done any derogatory pictures, they have always been very classy and would be willing to have them looked at if needed." She noted she had been contacted by Hustler and Playboy magazines and wanted to seize "a wonderful opportunity while I'm still at the age I can do it." (It hasn't been confirmed that she's appeared in the magazines.)

Huntz wrote she would "in no way" associate the photos with her job; sheriff's office policy requires employees to "conduct themselves both on and off duty in a manner that reflects most favorably on the Office." But her Photobucket album contained nude photos of herself along with a photo of the El Paso County SWAT team and another of a sheriff's vehicle.

Huntz told other employees that Maketa "protected" her from harsh punishment stemming from a prank she pulled on another dispatcher for which she was reprimanded. She also made it clear to co-workers that she had connections reaching to the top of the department, according to former fellow dispatcher Erica Bogner and Huntz's performance evaluations. She has since been promoted and gotten at least two raises.

Explaining the approval, Maketa has said he is restricted on how much he can interfere with civilian employees' private lives.

But his opponent for the Republican nomination for sheriff this election season, Monument Police Chief Jake Shirk, says he wouldn't have approved the request.

"We have to have the public trust, and we have to be above reproach at all times," Shirk says in an interview with the Indy. "The public has to look at us and understand we have a higher standard. We're there to set the example. I would not tolerate that."

'Doesn't look good'

Shirk also took issue with the handling of Detective Jerald Day, who's facing seven charges, including two felonies, in connection with a drunken episode in 2009 when he reportedly waved a gun at officers, as described in the Independent last week. Day is still employed by the sheriff's office, now as a civilian security technician in the jail.

"If they were felony charges, they would be on suspension without pay," says Shirk, who retired a captain after 29 years with the Aurora Police Department. "They wouldn't be in any form working for me."

As for the other scenario reported last week — that Maketa promoted a budget analyst to comptroller five months after hiring her and raised her annual pay by 85 percent within three years — Shirk says it "sure doesn't look good" in the wake of budget cuts that led to voluntary layoffs and the elimination of some positions.

In the past week, people identifying themselves as current and former employees have weighed in on the Indy's Web site, some describing a workplace clouded by favoritism, threats, bullying and unethical behavior. They also say they're afraid to reveal their identities, saying Maketa has threatened to demote or fire employees who talk to the media or write responses to the Indy's story.

Through spokeswoman Lt. Lari Sevene, Maketa calls allegations of such threats "entirely false" and says the claims that he is investigating who served as sources or blogged about his department are also "completely false."

zubeck@csindy.com

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