Editorial: One option for Sheriff Maketa

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There is plenty of accountability to go around in the scandal that Sheriff Terry Maketa has brought upon himself, misusing his power for at least half of his 12 years in office, creating an environment in his operation that now could cost taxpayers millions in legal bills and settlements.

We also should have a consensus of public agreement that El Paso County’s commissioners were too timid to take on such a swaggering, widely respected sheriff.

But there’s one response we haven’t heard enough in the days since the latest revelations about Maketa’s distorted morality.

As this Business Journal goes to press, only The Gazette has come out boldly and called for Maketa to resign, as the daily paper did on Sunday, May 25. Granted, many residents probably agree at varying levels, but the volume hasn’t been sufficiently noticeable. The Denver Post softly suggested he might not be able to continue unless he can prove his innocence. Maketa’s response has been defiant so far.

Just to be sure that the message isn’t lost, or misinterpreted as the single view of one media outlet, we use this space now to join The Gazette in making our own public statement.

Sheriff Maketa, we demand that you resign immediately.

It’s a stance not taken lightly. Our positions usually support the Colorado Springs-area business community as we all continue fighting our way out of that severe, underestimated — and in many ways still ongoing — recession.

Toward that end, we have shown disdain for any conflict or person creating more negativity and hampering our economic recovery. Just in recent weeks, we challenged local business leaders to be more forceful in standing up to elected leaders.

That’s where the Maketa scandal comes into play. At such a precarious time for our city and county, amid continuing uncertainty over how we can work together and find regional solutions to our most pressing problems, the last thing we need is a protracted, damaging controversy involving one of our region’s most prominent elected leaders.

We’re trying to build new momentum, from economic development to City for Champions and stormwater. Having a sheriff embroiled in a sordid case of possible malfeasance, inflicting a deep wound to the area’s image, cannot be tolerated. Beyond the relationships and threatened lawsuits, questions are rising that taxpayer funds might have been abused. Investigations have begun, perhaps including the FBI.

This is a crisis of leadership. And the solution begins with Maketa departing center stage. He will be able to defend himself against all allegations, legal and otherwise. But given the latest information, confirming reports dating to a Colorado Springs Independent story in 2010, Maketa does not deserve to finish his final term, which would conclude in January 2015 with his presumptive replacement, Bill Elder, taking office.

Given that Elder has no opposition, if a vacancy occurs, county commissioners could use their authority to have him take over as soon as possible, and let the healing begin.

But the first order of business has to be Terry Maketa’s departure, saving us from the embarrassment and expense of a recall process. He has brought shame and scorn upon El Paso County, and for that he should resign. Now.