Power of elected county leaders nearly untouchable
Updated On: Jul 04 2014 12:48:44 AM CDT
As we continue breaking open new developments in the El Paso County Sheriff's scandal, a lot of you are asking us why there's no way to force Sheriff Terry Maketa to step aside -- at least while the claims against him are investigated.
Turns out, so few people understand how the system works, the sheriff's office spokesman told us, Maketa actually wrote an exemption for himself from county policies. The Sheriff wanted to make it clear to people who don't understand, he is elected and not bound by County policies.
A similar scandal happened a decade ago, 60 miles north in Arapahoe County. Clerk and Recorder Tracy Baker faced accusations similar to those leveled against Sheriff Maketa.
"There were allegations by members of his staff that he had been behaving in a manner that was inappropriate, and they filed claims against the county based on those behaviors," said former Arapahoe County Attorney Kathryn Schroeder. She was the County Attorney during the Baker scandal.
The employee complaints against Baker included -- he gave his girlfriend in the Clerk & Recorder's Office a promotion and $40,000 raise.
Sheriff Maketa's accused of having inappropriate relationships with 3 female employees, who were then promoted into higher paying positions.
Schroeder said Arapahoe County Commissioners called on Baker to resign, but they had no authority to force him to quit.
The same thing is happening in El Paso County with commissioners and the sheriff.
Schroeder says it's the way the county government system is set up in Colorado. "It's a different animal and it's something that has caused conflict from time to time between the board of county commissioners and the other elected officials, it's a strange situation," she said.
Calls for elected county leaders to resign are nothing more than requests from boards of county commissioners in our state.
"It's not like a city and municipality where city council appoints all of the other city officials for the most part," and can fire them, said Schroeder.
Even U.S. Congress can impeach and force out a president, but there is no similar governmental action at the county level in Colorado for elected leaders.
Elected county leaders set and enforce policies in their own office, and if they violate their own policy? "Not much is going to happen," said Schroeder.
We set our county government in Colorado so elected leaders have the power, and only the voters can force them out of office, either through a general election or a recall election.
In Arapahoe County, Baker was recalled.
The effort to collect enough signatures to force a recall election for Sheriff Maketa is currently underway.