Wednesday, February 21, 2018

CBI takes a new look at El Paso County Sheriff's Office notary issue

Posted By on Wed, Feb 21, 2018 at 5:09 PM

click to enlarge COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Courtesy El Paso County Sheriff's Office
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation has reopened its look at claims two El Paso County Sheriff's Department employees were pressured to notarize deputy affidavits in violation of state notary laws.

In a Jan. 10 letter to District Attorney Dan May, Colorado Department of Public Safety executive director Stan Hilkey wrote that a CBI investigation 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.

Hilkey also stated in the letter, "Due to the absence of any supporting documentation or statements to substantiate the allegation, the CBI considers this matter closed."

After the DA's Office released the letter on Jan. 11, the Independent, which reported the alleged intimidation in a Nov. 8, 2017, cover story, "Law and Error," asked why the CBI had not interviewed a key witness.

In mid-December, the Indy interviewed a retired lieutenant, who witnessed Administrator Larry Borland ordering Dietz and Mejia to notarize hundreds of affidavits of oath that had taken place during the preceding 15 months. Those signatures were not made in Dietz's and Mejia's presence, which is required by law, and the deputies didn't sign a notary journal, also required by notary laws, Dietz told the Indy.

When the CBI announced the case was closed, the Indy asked the retired officer if he had been contacted by investigators and he said he had not, although others who were interviewed said they had given the CBI the retired officer's name and contact information.

(Borland didn't respond to questions for the Indy's cover story but later said he had never ordered a notary public to violate notary laws. Sheriff Bill Elder issued a statement cited in the cover story saying there's no law that requires oaths be notarized and that all were filed with the Clerk and Recorder's Office "for record keeping purposes." The day the story ran, Elder called a news conference and blasted the Indy and this reporter.)

The retired lieutenant, reached by phone by the Indy on Feb. 21, says a female CBI agent contacted him last week. His account:
They were asking me if I knew what law was broken. I said, "I really don't know. I'm not up on notary law. I don't know if it's a procedural law or what it could be." That's up to them. They're the investigators.

They were just saying they got a letter, their executive director or something received a letter about how they didn't do a very good investigation, and they were following up on it. They said they didn't know where this was going to go. I think they were just dotting the I's and crossing the T's.

She asked me all the right questions. She told me, 'We really don't know why we're involved in this.'

I told her as far as I was concerned, it [Borland's directive] was more than an order. Especially because when Borland left, Rick Dietz turned to me and told me, "I think that's against the law." I told him, "Sounds like to me you better get that done." When a command staff level employee comes down [and orders an employee to do something], they should know whether something is against the law or not. They [command staff] told them to do it and use the dates that were on them. If they know they're doing something wrong, they're intimidating the employee. That's what I told her and, again, that's my opinion.
Asked about whether the case was getting a fresh look, Susan Medina, CBI communications director, says via email, "The CBI reviewed additional elements connected with the initial inquiry. As soon as this process is completed, the results will will forwarded to the District Attorney's Office for consideration."

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