The El Paso County commissioners are putting off until September a decision on whether to ask voters to tighten term limits for the sheriff and district attorney.
At their July 1 meeting, Commissioner Darryl Glenn proposed asking voters to shorten term limits for both offices from three to two terms, a long-sought goal of his.
Voters had approved going the other way — extending the term limits of most county office-holders from two to three, four-year terms — in 2010. But the commissioner-approved ballot question was worded misleadingly, and after citizen outcry, the commissioners put the question back on the ballot in 2012. Voters then chose to reduce most county term limits to two terms. But the sheriff and DA weren't included in that vote.
Glenn says the sheriff and district attorney should have the same limits for the sake of consistency. His argument didn't get much traction in the past, but now that three-term Sheriff Terry Maketa is embroiled in scandal, the rest of the board has warmed to the idea.
However, the DA serves both Teller and El Paso counties, so any ballot question concerning that office must be approved by both counties' commissioners. And Commissioner Amy Lathen said she's received an email from Teller officials in which they say they're not interested in changing the DA's limits.
Lathen and other commissioners expressed concern about only asking voters to reduce the term limit for the sheriff, which would leave the DA the sole elected official besides the coroner (who has no term limit) who could serve three terms.
"It just seems to add to the inequity," Lathen said.
So the commissioners decided to delay a vote on any ballot questions until their Sept. 4 meeting, the latest possible date they could approve questions for the ballot. The hope is that Teller commissioners will change their minds about a ballot question if citizens are given an opportunity to weigh in. If there is no change, El Paso commissioners will be faced with the choice of whether to ask voters to reduce term limits for the sheriff while leaving the DA with a longer term.
If they choose to move forward with a question for the sheriff, it appears commissioners will have the support of at least one key figure. Bill Elder, who is the presumed next sheriff, told commissioners at the meeting that he "fully supports" asking voters to reduce term limits for that office.
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