Friday, July 13, 2018

Sheriff Elder fires Duda, after he tells Indy about political "retaliation"

Posted By on Fri, Jul 13, 2018 at 5:27 PM

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office has one less seargent as of Friday, July 13.

Two days after the Independent reported Sheriff's Sgt. Keith Duda was placed on administrative leave, purportedly for politicking on duty, he was canned.

"I've dedicated 12 years to this office," Duda tells the Indy. "I'm a highly decorated deputy. I've done nothing wrong."

click to enlarge Keith Duda is  unemployed as of Friday, July 13. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Keith Duda is unemployed as of Friday, July 13.
Duda supported Mike Angley in his bid for the Republican nomination for sheriff against incumbent Bill Elder. Elder placed Duda on administrative leave on June 22 alleging he used his position for political reasons. Angley was defeated at the June 26 primary, four days later.

Duda was asked to participate in the county's investigation of his alleged misconduct as well as an investigation of allegations he had made of misconduct by other personnel. Among those was a report that Lt. Bill Huffor sexually harassed a female deputy, for which he was punished in early 2017. Huffor then filed an infraction complaint against Duda's daughter, Caitlyn, who also works for the Sheriff's Office. Caitlyn, too, had previously filed the sexual harassment complaint against Huffor after hearing the female deputy complain about his actions toward her.

Then, a few months later, in spring 2017, Huffor filed a complaint against Caitlyn Duda for cussing in the jail, for which she received punishment she viewed as overly harsh. A few weeks later, Duda advised his daughter to file a complaint about the retaliation, and the very day she filed the report, June 9, 2017, Keith Duda was removed from consideration for a promotion.

Huffor was accused of voter intimidation by several delegates to the Republican county assembly in March, but the Sheriff's Office closed the case due to lack of evidence. He also has enjoyed several promotions since Elder took office on Dec. 31, 2014, and is married to Elder's campaign manager, Janet Huffor, who also serves as Elder's chief of staff.

Both Caitlyn and Keith Duda have filed Equal Employment Opportunity complaints and are contemplating a lawsuit.

click to enlarge Sheriff Bill Elder - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Sheriff Bill Elder
In one July 12 letter that asked Duda to cooperate in the investigations, County Attorney Amy Folsom says, "Legitimate employee complaints of inappropriate conduct, including suspected policy violations, are encouraged by the organization."

"Please appreciate that El Paso County and EPSO expect you to participate in the investigation process, provide truthful and complete information, and treat the investigation as confidential," Folsom wrote.

(Keith Duda's attorney, Ian Kalmanowitz, provided the Indy with those documents, as well as the termination notice posted on this blog.)

In another July 12 letter to Duda, Undersheriff Joe Breister notes, "You are advised the County is investigating allegations that you may have violated the confidentially [sic] requirement regarding workplace investigations."

Then, the letter tells Duda to report to the County Attorney's Office at 10 a.m. July 13 for the interview with employment investigators.

Duda did report. He spent two hours talking to an investigator with Employment Matters LLC/Flynn Investigations Group. When he was finished, the investigator told him that Lt. Michael St. Charles, the professional standards officer, was waiting for him outside.

St. Charles entered the room, Duda says, and handed him the termination notice, saying he needed an answer immediately to whether he would agree to meet with Elder. Duda declined.

Duda tells the Indy that the interview with the investigators was "ridiculous" because Elder had already decided to fire him, evidenced by the termination notice being dated July 12.

"It was already predetermined he was going to terminate me before I was interviewed," he says, referring to the July 13 meeting with investigators.

Here's the termination notice, which Duda said contains allegations with "no merit":

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