A deputy in the Teller County Jail, who blew the whistle on her superiors for using taxpayer equipment to do private business ("About Face," News, May 22), has lost her job.
Katherine Jensen received notice on May 29 that she was no longer an employee of the Sheriff's Office after having failed to show up for work on May 27. The action came less than a week after Jensen went public with allegations that she was being retaliated against for having reported misconduct by her superiors at the jail.
Jensen in February told Sheriff Kevin Dougherty that the head jail administrator, Lt. Stan Bishop, and another jail officer, Sgt. Bill Cooner, had used county equipment to run a side business on county time. Bishop and Cooner admitted having used county vehicles to deliver products for their business on two occasions, and they received a verbal warning.
However, Jensen was also reprimanded and placed on probation for "jumping the chain of command" by reporting Cooner and Bishop's misconduct directly to Dougherty, rather than to a lower-ranking officer. Her alleged misconduct was investigated, and sanctions against her imposed, by the same officers she'd blown the whistle on -- Cooner and Bishop. (A more detailed account, titled "About Face," appeared in the Independent on May 22 and is available online at www.csindy.com.)
Jensen stopped coming to work in late April, saying she couldn't cope mentally with the prospect of working with her superiors at the jail. When she didn't show up for her shift on May 27, after her sick leave and vacation time had run out, the county ruled that Jensen had forfeited her job.
"Teller County considers this failure to return to work as job abandonment and a self-termination of employment," Bishop wrote in a letter to Jensen.
Jensen, however, considers herself unjustly fired. Her superiors knew she was sick and didn't tell her she would lose her job if she didn't return on May 27, she says. "They never called me," she maintained.
Jensen says she was scheduled to see a psychiatrist to verify her inability to return to work, but hadn't been able to get an appointment by May 27.
The Sheriff's Office referred questions about the matter to Teller County human resources specialist Lindsey Chapman, who said she couldn't comment in detail about Jensen's termination.
"She didn't show up for work, and that's it," Chapman said. "All we can state is that she's no longer employed."
Mike Miles has never been coy about his ambition to become a U.S. senator. In fact, he filed papers with the Federal Election Commission in September of 2001, declaring himself a candidate more than three years prior to the election in which he hopes to defeat Republican Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
But just in case anyone's in doubt that Miles is still seeking the Democratic nomination in the 2004 race, he plans to publicly announce his candidacy Friday.
A West Point graduate, retired Army Ranger and ex-diplomat, Miles just quit his job as principal of Fountain Middle School to campaign nearly full time. "My biggest deficit is name recognition," Miles said, explaining his early entry into the race.
Other potential Democratic candidates face less of an obstacle in that regard. Among the heavy-hitters rumored to be interested in the race are Congressman Mark Udall of Boulder, state Attorney General Ken Salazar, outgoing Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, and Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter.
Miles is betting, however, that most of his potential high-profile rivals might sit out the contest, deterred by the prospect of taking on Republican incumbent Campbell, who won handily in his last race in 1998. Campbell "has all but announced" he'll run for re-election next year, said his spokeswoman, Camden Hubbard.
Miles cites his experience as a U.S. diplomat in Poland and Russia, and his nuclear, chemical and biological weapons training in the Army, among the qualifications he'd bring to the Senate during a time when foreign relations and terrorism have taken center stage.
However, he places domestic issues such as health care and education at the top of his priority list.
"Health care is the No. 1 issue for me," Miles said. Health-insurance premiums "are just going through the roof, and it's causing a crisis."
Miles favors universal health-insurance coverage through a single-payer system and lowering the cost of prescription drugs by shortening drug-patent terms. To improve education, Miles wants to reward "quality teachers" through tax incentives and student-loan forgiveness programs.
Miles' announcement is set for 11 a.m. Friday at Helen Hunt Elementary School, 917 E. Moreno Ave.
The Colorado Springs City Council is set to fill a vacant Council seat Thursday morning by appointing one of seven candidates to replace former District 2 Councilman Charles Wingate.
Wingate, who was elected to represent the northeastern part of the city in 2001, resigned on May 13, shortly after prosecutors filed multiple felony charges against him for allegedly stealing and pawning city equipment. He was already fighting criminal charges for allegedly having used a city credit card to order a pizza delivered to his home.
The eight remaining Council members on Monday interviewed six candidates who live in District 2 -- all of them men -- who have applied to take Wingate's place at the dais:
Charles Conser, a retired Colorado Springs Utilities engineer;
Jim Etheridge, pastor of Calvary Chapel Eastside;
Darryl Glenn, a lawyer who nearly got elected to an at-large seat on the Council in the city elections earlier this spring;
Leon Kirk, a neighborhood activist who ran against Wingate in 2001;
Alan Morgan, an investment adviser; and,
Ralf Zimmerman, a retired Army officer.
A seventh applicant, businessman DeForest Hamilton, did not attend the interview session.
A majority of the City Council must vote to select one of the candidates, who will then be sworn in. The meeting, at 9 a.m. in the Council chambers at City Hall, is open to the public.
-- Terje Langeland
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