March 11, 2010 News » Cover Story

Star treatment 

As Sheriff Terry Maketa runs for a third term, his personnel decisions deserve a second look

A detective brandished a gun at lawmen and landed in jail on $300,000 bond but is still working for the sheriff. A budget analyst received a 49 percent pay raise within five months of being hired, thanks to being promoted into a job outside normal hiring procedures. One dispatcher posed nude on multiple occasions, played an "intentionally embarrassing" prank that resulted in an Internal Affairs reprimand, and sent hundreds of personal messages over the sheriff's dispatch network — then got promoted, herself.

All those things have happened on the watch of El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa.

On Jan. 20, Maketa announced he wouldn't seek a third term. The 45-year-old insisted he wanted to spend more time with his family and make more money in the private sector, and that he had lost his passion for the job.

That same day, former sheriff's lieutenant Todd Evans announced he'd seek the $111,000-a-year position. He'd later withdraw, due to a recurrence of cancer. But by then, another candidate, Monument Police Chief Jake Shirk, had jumped in.

And by then, Maketa had announced he, in fact, had changed his mind. On Feb. 8, cheered by about 40 backers on the lawn of his Costilla Street office, he said he was "back in it."

Now, Maketa is weeks from the Republican County Assembly, where he hopes to keep Shirk off the August primary ballot. So far, campaigning has been low-key and focused on such things as response times. But judgment might be something to consider, given the facts surrounding the treatment Maketa's afforded certain employees.

In a 50-minute interview Tuesday, the sheriff defended his decisions to keep the detective on the force and to promote the budget analyst 16 pay levels in one shot. He claims he knew next to nothing about the dispatcher's nude pictures, except that she had asked permission to model on her off-duty hours and that Undersheriff Paul Zani granted her permission "as long as it was tastefully done."

The Independent asked to interview the detective, comptroller and dispatcher, but all of them declined.

Back on the job

On Feb. 28, 2009, El Paso County Sheriff's Detective Jerald Day was drunk, flashing his handgun and threatening officers of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office and Castle Rock Police Department, according to El Paso and Douglas counties' records. He was jailed on $300,000 bail and charged with seven crimes, including DUI, felony menacing and felony vehicular eluding.

Yet today he's working in the El Paso County jail, where, former county sheriff John Anderson says, he's a liability risk.

"If he did anything, you'd be hanging out there," says Anderson, who supported Maketa in his first two elections but this time backed Evans.

The 2009 episode was out of character for Day, whose job evaluations reflect regular raises and promotions since his 1996 hiring. But after he broke up with his girlfriend in mid-February 2009, Day stalked her and drank heavily, according to an El Paso County sheriff's incident report written by Day's partner, Detective Cliff Porter.

The girlfriend, fearing Day was looking for her, took refuge in Porter's home. Day started texting Porter at 11 a.m. on Feb. 28. Five hours later, the messages became more frequent, with garbled language and misspelled words, Porter writes. Porter called Day, who talked with "heavily slurred speech" and called him a "mother fucker" and his girlfriend "a stupid fucking whore," Porter's report says.

At about 10 p.m., Day's girlfriend told Porter she thought Day had killed himself, because she heard a gun click before the phone went dead. But Day quickly called back, and Porter told him to put the gun away. Day hung up but again called back, saying he planned to take his own life. Porter notified El Paso County dispatch.

During a series of phone calls, Day told Porter he "knew how it had to be."

"He started going over different dark scenarios where he forced the police to kill him," Porter writes. "Some included a shoot out with law enforcement, some included shooting into the ground and forcing the police to shoot him, some included shooting over their heads, and others involved direct engagement."

After being notified by El Paso County at about 10:30 p.m., Douglas County deputies spotted Day in his truck heading north on Colorado Highway 83 just south of Castlewood Canyon, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said in a press release. Day refused to stop, drove over stop sticks and pulled into a parking lot. More deputies arrived, along with Castle Rock police officers.

Day "kept walking around the truck, at times waving his gun above his head and in the direction of the deputies," the Douglas County press release said. Day was brought down by sponge rounds and a K9 unit early on March 1.

Jailed on $300,000 initially, Day later posted $30,000 bond and was released. He was suspended with pay, and El Paso County officials retrieved his badges. Sheriff's Office attorney Charles Greenlee says Day collected sick pay for a time, but there's no record his pay was interrupted. Greenlee refuses to release an Internal Affairs investigation report triggered by Day's arrest, saying the incident involved "matters that did not involve Mr. Day's functions as a Deputy Sheriff, as he was off duty at the time and using his personal vehicle."

On Oct. 1, 2009, a Sheriff's Office memo reports that Day was offered a "transfer" to security technician monitoring visitation, a civilian job in the jail that pays $3,006 a month, less than the $4,835 a month he was making as a detective. He accepted. In January, Day received the county's 3.5 percent pay raise.

The 43-year-old will be off his six-month probation on April 5 — about two weeks before his April 20 trial date in Douglas County on charges of felony menacing, felony vehicular eluding, DUI, resisting arrest, prohibited use of a weapon while drunk, obstructing government operations and reckless endangerment.

Anderson says he never would have placed Day in another law enforcement job: "In my mind, my hands would have been tied."

James Grayson retired from the Sheriff's Office as a commander in 2007 and serves as Shirk's campaign treasurer after working on Maketa's first two campaigns. Upon learning Day was back on the job, he responded, "Really?"

"When you have somebody that's kind of in an uncontrolled emotional state and now they're in a position of being in charge of a secure area of a building, they have to pass psychology exams," Grayson notes. "I'm not sure someone who's demonstrated that behavior qualifies for that."

Maketa says he's not worried about liability arising from Day's employment.

"Jerald Day is a good person who was going through some degree of mental crisis," he says. "He has given this office a number of good years. We felt we should stand behind him ... in recognition for those years of service."

Maketa says if Day is convicted of a felony, it would "most likely result in termination." (State law actually forbids Peace Officer Standards and Training certification of any person who has been convicted of a felony.) But a misdemeanor conviction may have little or no impact on him keeping his job.

A swelling salary

Dorene Cardarelle was hired Feb. 12, 2007, as a Sheriff's Office budget analyst. The new position would pay her $51,396 a year, with a promised 2.5 percent pay hike, to $52,692, after six months, according to personnel records obtained by the Independent under the Colorado Open Records Act.

But in less than five months, Cardarelle, formerly a self-employed accounting consultant, was promoted to comptroller and her pay jacked up by 49 percent — an increase that skipped 16 levels to a classification equivalent to that of lieutenant.

To get the new job, which previously had been held by sworn lieutenants, Cardarelle didn't compete with any other applicants. Contrary to common county hiring practices followed by the Sheriff's Office, the job wasn't advertised. Instead, Cardarelle was promoted to comptroller.

Greenlee notes in a memo to the Independent that Cardarelle was chosen for the budget analyst job from among 23 applicants and three finalists. "Ms. Cardarelle was promoted in-house to Comptroller at a later time," he writes. The analyst job no longer exists, because it was "merged into the comptroller position," Greenlee says.

Maketa says the analyst job was advertised according to policy, and that he planned to promote the person hired for that job to comptroller if he or she worked out.

However, there's no mention in the job posting that the analyst would advance into a significantly higher level position after a probationary period.

"You don't put a promise in a job description that somebody's going to be promoted," Maketa says. "You wait to bring a person in and see how they work out, and that was the plan from the beginning."

Maketa notes he didn't hire Cardarelle; his subordinates did. He promoted her, he says, based on her supervisor's recommendation. And since, she has brought "very positive benefits" to the department as the "best comptroller this office has ever had." Maketa also notes the pay raise and promotion to comptroller was "one step" on the scale, although in his July 2007 memo to her he notes the advancement as moving from grade 14.1 to grade 17.6.

Interestingly, Cardarelle, now 33, didn't meet the first qualification on the job description when originally hired, because she didn't possess a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field. At least one of the other finalists did have an accounting bachelor's.

Cardarelle, who holds a bachelor's degree in psychology, still has not obtained an accounting degree, but Maketa notes that as indicated toward the bottom of the job description, "related education and experience may be substituted" for that degree. The comptroller job asked for identical qualifications.

Cardarelle would later get another big boost. In a Dec. 18, 2009, memo, Maketa advanced her pay grade to 18.4, the department's highest civilian designation. Only the staff psychologist and legal adviser have the same grade.

That came with more money — an 8 percent pay hike, or $6,120 a year. Cardarelle also got a 3.5 percent cost-of-living raise given to all county employees, thereby increasing her salary to $85,356 a year, effective in January.

Maketa didn't stop there. He added another $9,852 to her pay, also effective in January.

"In addition to your base salary increase (of 11.5 percent)," Maketa writes in a memo to Cardarelle, "I am taking this opportunity in recognition of your willingness to assume the fulltime duties of the vacant grant coordinator position to adjust your new base grade of a 17.5 to a new grade of 18.4."

The raise of $9,852 represents 15 percent of the grant coordinator's annual salary, so Maketa tells Cardarelle she's to spend 15 percent of her time on grants.

"I recognize you assumed these duties during the calendar year 2009 and performed them, in addition to your regular duties, in an admirable fashion," Maketa writes to her in the memo, obtained by the Independent under an open-records request. "Your willingness to continue performing these duties has not gone unnoticed nor has the value you have brought to this organization and me as the Sheriff."

Thus, after three years, Cardarelle is paid $95,208 annually, 85 percent more than her starting pay.

Cardarelle, Maketa's frequent sidekick at Board of County Commissioners meetings, also has taken business trips with the sheriff. The first came in August 2007, after her big promotion, to an Arlington, Va., grant-management conference, along with another employee, according to travel records obtained under an open-records request. It's the only grant-management conference Maketa has attended from among the 63 trips he's made since becoming sheriff.

She also traveled twice to Breckenridge to the 10-county budget conference that also was attended by Maketa, in 2008 and 2009. Maketa hasn't attended the 10-county budget conference during any other years he's been sheriff, according to travel records.

Cardarelle is praised highly in job evaluations by supervisors Ken Moore and Larry Kastner. Her July 2008 evaluation says, "Dorene is exceedingly resourceful; her tireless investigative skills uncover all relevant information." And as comptroller, "Dorene has set the standard for the position and has exceeded the expectations ..."

All that said, James Grayson, a 26-year sheriff's employee, says he's never known an employee to skip so many pay levels at once or to have their pay escalate by 85 percent in three years.

The Sheriff's Office refused to supply a photograph of Cardarelle, saying it "may compromise her safety" and therefore "would not be in the public interest."

Conduct unbecoming

Tiffany Huntz, who calls herself Jessica Jordyn on some Web sites, was hired as a dispatcher on July 12, 2004, after having worked as a waitress, liquor store clerk and account manager at a furniture leasing store. She's been promoted and given raises at the Sheriff's Office since that time, most recently a 6 percent bump in January, despite "serious violations" of policies and procedures in 2008 for using the sheriff's emergency communications system to play a prank, as well as other problems on the job, according to records obtained by the Independent under state disclosure laws.

The 28-year-old Doherty High School graduate also has been investigated for briefly running a sex toy business and for posting her nude pictures on various Web sites, multiple sources say.

We can't know that for sure, because the Sheriff's Office won't release two of the three Internal Affairs investigations of Huntz. Department lawyer Greenlee says they concerned "a business she owned" and "matters in her distant past that were found not to impact her current employment." Hence, he says, the privacy interest of her "off duty, private matters" outweighs the public's right to know.

First Amendment expert Steve Zansberg, a Denver attorney, took issue with Greenlee withholding Huntz's and Day's files. Noting the reasoning that the issues involved off-duty activities, Zansberg says, "It raises the question, then, of why are they conducting an internal affairs investigation at all?"

More importantly, Zansberg says, the public should be given access to determine whether the investigations were adequate and whether discipline, if imposed, was reasonable.

"It's not what the employees did," he says. "It's what the department did in investigating those officers' conduct.

"If Sheriff Maketa and his team are going to continue to exercise their discretion in this way" by withholding the files, he adds, "it may be upheld by a court of law, but there's a court of public opinion."

There's no question Huntz is proud of her body. Suggestive photos of her in various stages of undress can be found in lots of places on the Web, including MySpace, Photobucket and on the site for Onyx Fine Art Photography, where she wears only a necklace and nipple piercings.

The owner of Onyx, Brandon Wallace, says he's photographed Huntz several times dating back seven years, most recently six months ago. He says he doesn't know when the photos were shot that appear on his Web site.

The Photobucket site features a shot of her in a see-through black negligee, another in a G-string. She doesn't identify herself as a sheriff's employee, but she posted the racy pics next to photos of an El Paso County sheriff's vehicle and the SWAT team.

On MySpace, she poses with a nightstick in her pants and a pair of handcuffs dangling from a beltloop. In others, she's nude or wearing only panties, and she quotes porn star Jenna Jameson: "I do what I do because it puts a smile on my face."

As Jessica Jordyn, Huntz is pictured in a G-string, nightgown, bra and panties, bustier and a fur wrap.

On Huntz's Facebook page, which doesn't contain racy photos, her friends include Maketa's son, brother, son-in-law and wife, and El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark.

Reached Tuesday afternoon preparing for a candidates' debate at Mr. Biggs, Clark said she didn't have time to discuss Huntz and sheriff-related issues.

"If it's a smear tactic, I don't want to get involved," she said.

Asked what made her think that, she reiterated that she didn't have time to talk.

It's not publicly known whether Huntz's exposure was judged a policy violation, but sources say she wasn't disciplined. The department's policy doesn't prohibit Huntz from pursuing a modeling career if she does it on her own time. However, the policy does prohibit employees from "any immoral, indecent, lewd or disorderly conduct" and require employees to "conduct themselves both on and off duty in a manner that reflects most favorably on the Office."

When asked about the photos, at first Maketa says he knows nothing: "I don't know what nude photos you're talking about," he says. But then he says he recalls she submitted a request to then-Undersheriff Zani seeking permission to do some modeling.

"We're somewhat restricted on how much we can interfere with civilians' private lives," Maketa says. "We have a lot more control over sworn [personnel], and I believe it was approved so long as they were tastefully done. He told me after the fact what his decision was and why, with the caveat there could be no tie into the office or her employment here."

Asked if such photos of an employee would reflect "most favorably" on the department, he says, "I would say, my personal opinion, no, they wouldn't, but you're talking to me about something I'm not even aware of. I am aware she does modeling as a hobby. She went through the proper channels to do that."

'All in good fun'

The only released IA report on Huntz involves a Feb. 27, 2008, prank she played on another dispatcher, Erica Bogner. According to witness statements, Huntz wanted to have a deputy call in a rollover crash with Bogner's license plate, or to submit a phony call for service for "Fola Seaman."

Huntz says in her IA statement that she talked it over with everyone working that night, including Sgt. Dean Kelsey and two deputies, and persuaded Deputy Troy Allen to phone in the "Fola Seaman" call, which Huntz intended to sound like "full of semen."

When the call came in, Huntz forwarded it to Bogner for dispatch, Bogner unwittingly aired the name on the Sheriff's Department's radio channel, and then "noticed that it sounded very inappropriate," as she writes in her statement.

"After I found out this was a joke," Bogner writes, "I was offended and also felt very embarrassed and disgusted that I had just said something like this. ... I did not find it funny at all and feel like it was very uncalled for." Bogner filed a complaint a day later.

Statements from deputies and dispatchers show Huntz spent more than an hour plotting the joke, sending text messages, calling deputies and trying to gain approval from the supervising officer, Kelsey.

In her IA statement, Huntz says she isn't sorry.

"I know if it had been anyone else in the room she wouldn't be filing this complaint. I do not regret playing the joke on her, it was all in good fun," she writes. "I do regret the choice in names I chose because it was a violation of policy and apologize for this."

Sgt. Kelsey vehemently denies being a party to the joke.

"I had no prior knowledge that this so-called prank was being planned or that it was actually going to take place," he writes in his memo for the IA investigation. When Huntz told him she wanted to pull the rollover crash joke, Kelsey told her "in a manner that left no room for doubt" that it wasn't funny and "was in fact cruel." He says he made it clear he disapproved and only later learned she had done it anyway.

"I made it clear to Ms. Huntz that she was not to involve, 'my people,' in any pranks and I consider her failure to adhere to my direction to be an obvious failure to obey an order," Kelsey writes. "Additionally, if she is indicating to anyone, as I believe she is, that I had prior knowledge of and/or approved of this prank then she is a liar and should be disciplined accordingly."

Then-Bureau Chief Larry Kastner, who reviewed the case and recommended punishment, concluded Huntz violated five policies: obedience to orders; respect for commanding officers, other employees and citizens; departing from the truth; conduct unbecoming; and prohibited activity (offensive work condition), according to his March 14, 2008 memo.

Kastner notes in his ruling that the "joke" aired over the primary law enforcement channel, which is monitored by the public and media. Recordings of the channel often are used in court hearings.

"The nature of this particular recording would have been very detrimental to the reputation of the office," he writes.

Former Sheriff Anderson adds that misuse of communication equipment also can jeopardize the department's radio license.

Following Kastner's review, Huntz appealed to Undersheriff Paul Zani. Asked about the case today, he says, "It doesn't ring a bell."

Whoever did handle the case removed the offenses of prohibited activity and departing from the truth, which suggests someone believed Huntz's version over that of Kelsey, a 25-year officer. Huntz was issued a reprimand on May 28, 2008.

Departing from the truth is grounds for termination, several department insiders say — Zani himself calls it "one of the most serious infractions" — and employees have been canned for lying. Yet Huntz was given the lowest level of discipline possible. Reasons aren't contained in the file, which Greenlee says isn't unusual because appeals normally aren't documented.

Jim Groth, who retired from the Sheriff's Office in 2007, says he's known Kelsey for nearly 30 years.

"There's no way Dean would give someone permission to do that over the air," he says. "It's just not true."

Grayson, who says he's known Kelsey "forever," calls him "above reproach."

"I've known Dean a long time, and if he tells me something, I believe it," he says. "He's completely honest, in my opinion."

Frank Frazier Jr., who worked Internal Affairs from 2002 to 2007 and retired after 27 years, says that during his time at the Sheriff's Office, the sheriff was in the loop. "He's briefed on all internal investigations," Frazier says, and even ruled on some cases that were appealed.

'Straight to the top'

Huntz was involved in another IA investigation in the first half of 2008, one of her evaluations says, and she was counseled about sending 470 electronic messages on the sheriff's network, most not work-related, within a three-week period. In a July 11, 2008 evaluation, her supervisor, Darcy Dittenber, alluded to "personal problems" with Bogner and wrote that "[Huntz] is not to discuss coworkers via CAD (computer aided dispatch) messages with deputies on the road."

Huntz also was told not to discuss "things of a personal nature" on duty. Moreover, a supervisor reported she had been "approached by almost every member of the midnight shift in reference to conduct unbecoming from Tiffany," according to Dittenber's evaluation of Huntz, including her talking about "the birthday party for her husband that will be including strippers and a pole."

Another concern that Dittenber writes into the evaluation: "I also spoke to Tiffany about other employees talking about her bragging about the fact that she does not use the chain of command anymore. ... Tiffany has said that she will just go straight to the top."

Bogner, who no longer works for the Sheriff's Office, says in an interview that it was no secret Huntz had connections to top officials, including Maketa.

"I personally witnessed her e-mailing the sheriff on a personal level at 3 o'clock in the morning," she says.

The 28-year-old adds that Huntz told staff members the prank-call IA resulted in less discipline than recommended because the sheriff intervened.

"It was the sheriff that overturned it," Bogner says. "[Huntz] said the sheriff was protecting her."

Bogner adds that one of Huntz's earlier IA investigations focused on a sex toy business, which folded quickly, and no discipline resulted from the investigation. Bogner says she briefly took part in the business, too, but withdrew after a few weeks.

Maketa says he knows nothing about any of Huntz's IAs, that he never handled appeals of their findings, and that the claim he protected Huntz is "not true."

The sheriff also denies any knowledge of the 3 a.m. chat: "I don't know what you're talking about," he says.

Moving up

Seven months after the IA that resulted in the letter of reprimand, Huntz was promoted. On Jan. 1, 2009, she advanced to dispatch supervisor, ahead of other people with more tenure, and got a 15.5 percent raise, to $48,636 per year. The sheriff has no policy that prohibits an employee with disciplinary action or IAs in their recent past from being promoted, although Frazier says a person's history is taken into account.

Maketa says he had nothing to do with Huntz's promotions, and she advanced, he says, "probably because she was the best candidate."

Huntz has outstanding dispatch skills, as noted in her evaluations, and at some point in 2007 or 2008 she became part of the tactical dispatch unit, crisis negotiations unit and crisis intervention team. She also volunteered with Citizens for Effective Government, which pushed a failed tax hike measure on the November 2008 ballot that would have benefited the Sheriff's Office, and "brief(ed) the sheriff on topics of discussion," her supervisor Virpi Mattson says in a Jan. 1, 2010, evaluation.

Maketa notes that Huntz "worked her butt off" on the ballot measure. She's a friend, he says, and keeps in touch with his wife, kids and brother.

County records show Maketa gave her a leadership award during 2009, and when she applied to a leadership program, he provided her with "a wonderful letter of recommendation," Mattson writes in a recent job evaluation. Two months ago, Maketa gave Huntz a 6 percent raise, to $51,588.

Huntz is now working on Maketa's re-election campaign.


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