Thursday, January 11, 2018

CBI finds "no evidence" to substantiate intimidation of sheriff's notaries

Posted By on Thu, Jan 11, 2018 at 5:07 PM

click to enlarge COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Courtesy El Paso County Sheriff's Office
An investigation by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation into problems with notarizing deputy affidavits of oath at the El Paso County Sheriff's Office found "no evidence existed to substantiate that threats and intimidation took place" against Rick Dietz and Dave Mejia, who worked in the sheriff's human resources department in 2016, when it was discovered that hundreds of deputy oaths and deputy signatures had not been properly witnessed by a notary public and timely filed with the Clerk and Recorder's Office.

Dietz told the Indy that Sheriff's Administrator Larry Borland ordered he and Mejia to go ahead and notarize all the documents as if they had witnessed the signatures. Dietz said they did not witness the signatures but went ahead and notarized the documents as if they had when they felt their jobs were in jeopardy if they refused. He said Chief of Staff Janet Huffor then filed the documents, all in the same day in April 2016, up to a year after the oaths of office had been administered.

After the Independent published "Law and Error" on Nov. 8, 2017, the Fourth Judicial District Attorney's Office asked the CBI to investigate. "Our Office asked for an outside, independent investigation of these allegations, which the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) agreed to conduct," the DA's office said in a statement released Jan. 11. "They have completed a comprehensive investigation and have released an overview of their findings, which is attached."

The CBI's investigation, which they called "comprehensive," didn't include interviewing a key independent witness to the incident, a lieutenant who's now retired and living in another state.

Contacted by the Indy after the DA issued the statement containing the CBI report on Jan. 11, the lieutenant was surprised at the finding, saying, "Nobody ever called me from there." He says he finds that odd, "considering I was the only lieutenant on that floor [at that time]," meaning that while the Indy did not name him in our coverage, it would have been easy to deduce who we were quoting. "It wouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who that is," the lieutenant said. "That's pretty self evident."

We've asked the CBI for a comment on not interviewing that witness and will circle back if we hear something.

Dietz tells the Indy he was interviewed for about 45 minutes by two people from the CBI in December. They told him it wasn't something they usually would look into, but because of "the weight" and "importance" of the issue, they took on the matter.

"I'm disappointed, but I'm not surprised," Dietz says. "I don't know how they can say there's no evidence." He noted that he told the investigators about the retired lieutenant, so he was disappointed the investigators wouldn't have touched base with him.

Then he added, "Nothing surprises me with this anymore, quite honestly. I did what I thought I had to do, and I'm comfortable with that."

Dietz says Mejia also spoke with the CBI and gave an account similar to his own. Mejia has refused to comment on the episode to the Indy.

The original story prompted Sheriff Bill Elder to call a news conference on 20 minutes notice the day of publication. At the news conference, his office requested none of the television news teams set up their cameras. He then lashed out at this reporter and the Indy repeatedly for 45 minutes. Elder called the report "crap" and denigrated me and the Indy. He later stopped responding to my questions and issued responses only to the Indy's editors. That practice has ended after First Amendment attorney Steve Zansberg took issue with that in a letter on the Indy's behalf to the Sheriff's Office.

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