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Mike Angley secures primary ballot slot after sheriff supporters allegedly harass assembly delegates 

Bullies at the ballot?

click to enlarge Sheriff’s Office officials are accused of harassing people, in an attempt to influence assembly votes. - SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com
  • Sheriff’s Office officials are accused of harassing people, in an attempt to influence assembly votes.
In his 22 years as an El Paso County sheriff’s deputy, Les Milligan says he never got involved in politics. But this year, some of his friends at the Sheriff’s Office wanted him to attend the GOP caucus and get elected as a delegate for Mike Angley, a retired Air Force colonel who’s challenging incumbent Sheriff Bill Elder.

The idea was to get enough delegates at the precinct caucus meetings who would vote at the assembly to place Angley on the June 26 Republican primary ballot against Elder. Candidates need 30 percent of the delegates to secure a primary ballot slot.

But Milligan’s first tiptoe into politics prompted him to file two complaints for harassment against Sheriff’s Lt. Bill Huffor, who, he says, screamed at him, and put his finger in Milligan’s face while calling him “a big piece of shit” and “motherfucker” in the presence of several sheriff’s commanders, who did nothing to intervene.

“I find it appalling,” says Milligan, who’s retired. “I never had any idea that any of my fellow employees would act like this.”

While it didn’t discourage him from voting, Milligan reports he knows of at least two delegates who also were harassed and left the assembly without casting a vote.

In a separate encounter at the assembly, another retiree, who asked not to be named, says Elder himself cursed at him and asked why he would vote for “that fucking cripple,” meaning Angley, who has a military disability.

Huffor, who was promoted twice within 18 months after Elder took office in December 2014, didn’t respond to requests for comment, but Elder denied all of the allegations.

“The Commanders who were present witnessed nothing even close to what you claim,” he says in an email, referring to the Huffor episode and others. He also denied having said “anything even remotely close” to the comment about Angley.

All of the allegations, he says, “are baseless and nothing more than political rhetoric intended to damage the credibility and integrity of those who work on my campaign.”

“I can assure you that there is no truth whatsoever to any of them,” Elder says. “I consider this matter closed and will make no further comments regarding it.”

Although El Paso County GOP chair Josh Hosler says the party didn’t receive any complaints of intimidation during the assembly, at least three complaints have been filed with the Sheriff’s Office’s Professional Standards Department (internal affairs), and Milligan also filed a complaint with the police force at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs where the assembly took place. Harassment and influencing voters using heavy-handed tactics are crimes under
Colorado law.

Angley, who won 36 percent of the vote to win a spot on the primary ballot, called reports of intimidation, harassment and voter disenfranchisement “disturbing.”

“It used to be Republicans who championed civil rights protections,” he says via email, “not engaged in their violation.”

It’s not unusual for incumbent sheriffs to secure support from subordinates — through campaign contributions and serving as delegates. For example, sheriff’s personnel, such as Joe Breister, Mitch Lincoln, Rob King, Teri Goodall, Jackie Kirby, Paula Presley and many others gave to the campaigns of former Sheriff Terry Maketa, who served three terms, and served as delegates for him. Maketa resigned on Dec. 31, 2014, two weeks shy of finishing his final term amid allegations of favoritism and creating a hostile work environment. (Last year and this year, Maketa was tried twice on various criminal charges, but the juries acquitted him on some charges and stalemated on others, leading prosecutors to abandon the case.)

Many of Maketa’s supporters also served as delegates for and gave money to Elder’s 2014 campaign, when Elder dispatched two opponents at the assembly to run unopposed in the primary and general elections.

When Milligan was asked to attend a caucus (the party meetings that precede the assembly), he agreed. “Angley is an Air Force guy. I’m an Air Force guy,” says Milligan, who served for four years.

At his March 6 caucus, he says, Huffor told those at the meeting that Angley was running a dirty campaign and was tied to the dirtyelder.com website, set up in January 2017, which is hypercritical of Elder. Milligan later told a caucus attendee that wasn’t true, that Angley isn’t running a dirty campaign and isn’t connected with the website.

Then, at the assembly about three weeks later, Huffor came rushing up to him and accosted him, he says.

“He calls me a back-stabbing son of a bitch,” Milligan says. “I felt duress the whole day. I didn’t know if he was going to come and verbally assault me again. I’ve been a cop for a lot of years. I went there to vote. I felt harassed. He did cause two people to leave without voting. They paid their $40 to vote, and they left because they felt uncomfortable.”

Although Milligan calls Elder “a good guy” for whom he worked during the 1990s before Elder left in 1998, he’s angry that one of his officers would assail him publicly at the assembly.

“I paid my $40 to be a delegate,” Milligan says. “Huffor assaulted me verbally in front of three commanders. Afterward, [Commander Rob] King said, ‘I guess you met Bill Huffor.’” Milligan says King and the other command staffers who witnessed the encounter should have stepped in. “I was harassed that day, and they didn’t come to my defense,” he says. “There’s a duty to report. No one should be harassed when they go to vote.”
click to enlarge Sheriff Bill Elder says there is “no truth whatsoever” to claims of harassment.
  • Sheriff Bill Elder says there is “no truth whatsoever” to claims of harassment.
None of the command staff returned the Indy’s phone calls seeking comment.

The duty to report to which Milligan referred requires law enforcement officers to report inappropriate behavior they observe among the ranks.

After filing a complaint with the Sheriff’s Office, Milligan says he met on April 9 with Ken Hilte, who oversees internal affairs. “I do believe Hilte will do the right thing,” Milligan says. “He asked the right questions, and I was on video the whole time.”

Milligan, along with retired officers James Hernandez and John Langfels, met with UCCS police on April 2 to report the harassment of Milligan and others, saying two Sheriff’s Office employees left without voting and “are allegedly fearful of their jobs,” UCCS Detective Corporal Martin Toetz wrote in the report.

“I asked them what they thought the purpose was for the verbal outburst [by Huffor] that was alleged to have occurred,” Toetz’s report says. To which Milligan responded, “This was the one chance [for Elder] to put Angley out of business and not have anybody run against Elder.”

Asked about the status of that investigation, UCCS spokesperson Jared Verner says via email, “Right now, there isn’t any further action being taken, but the case will remain open to accept any new information.”

There are laws that would appear to apply to such actions, however. To influence any voter at a caucus, assembly or convention in the casting of his or her vote “by bribery, duress or any other corrupt or fraudulent means,” is a misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $1,000 and one year in jail.

Harassment — a lower-level misdemeanor, with a fine up to $750 and up to six months in jail — occurs when a person with intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person, directs obscene language toward that person in a public place or makes an obscene gesture at a person, or “follows a person in or about a public place.”
The Independent sought complaints regarding the assembly from the Sheriff’s Office, but communications director Jackie Kirby merely outlined the process for dealing with such complaints, saying, “Depending on the level of the violation, it could be investigated by the persons [sic] Chain of Command or by Professional Standards, unless it is a Title 7 [federal civil rights] violation, then the County would investigate.”

Asked again for the complaints themselves or at least how many were filed, she said two were received from “uninvolved third parties,” but she denied access to the reports, saying, “A Pubic Interest Analysis is being completed as to why we will not be releasing the reports.”

Based on interviews and records obtained by the Indy, it appears at least three complaints were submitted. Milligan says he filed one, and sources who spoke only on condition of anonymity fearing reprisal say two additional complaints also were filed. One regarded Huffor’s treatment of Milligan and the commanders’ alleged failure to intervene, and another involved a currently serving sergeant whom Huffor allegedly called a “fucking liar” and ordered to put on an Elder T-shirt “and get to work.” That complaint states the sergeant felt pressured and left before casting his vote.

The sergeant couldn’t be reached for comment, and several sources say he’s consulted an attorney.

Several delegates tell the Indy that 10 to 15 Elder supporters holding signs and wearing Elder T-shirts formed a “gauntlet” at UCCS’s Gallogly Events Center entrance at the assembly. As one noted, “When you have to walk through a mob like that, it’s intimidating.”

Angley retired from the Air Force after a 35-year career in military law enforcement and intelligence, spending most of that time as a senior supervisory special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI). He’s lived in Colorado Springs for 13 years.

Asked about his disability, Angley says the chief factors in his disability rating stem from migraine headaches and a lower back injury that caused a bulging disk. While the condition corrected itself, a Veterans Administration assessment said it could recur. Angley notes that neither condition “precludes me from serving as Sheriff” and that he served on active duty with the military with both conditions.

As for Elder’s allegedly referring to him as a “fucking cripple,” Angley says he finds it “vulgar and
reprehensible.”

“No public official should ever hold those with disabilities in disparagement, but to utter such words about a disabled veteran — in our community that cherishes the military — is disgraceful,” he says.

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