The Eight 2014 Inductees Into Colorado's Hall of Shame
One of our Shame inductees inspired protests.
Jeffco Students for Change Facebook page
Every year, we bring you the best examples of the worst behavior we can find from the past 365 days of news stories in Colorado. And from a shady sheriff to a cancer faker to the people who cursed us with exorcist politician Gordon Klingenschmitt, there was, as always, plenty of shame to go around. We selected the eight most egregious offenders of common decency for your reading pleasure. Enjoy.
There's something naughty going in the El Paso County's Sheriff's Office, and although Sheriff Terry Maketa and various employees there have denied any and all wrongdoing, in October the El Paso Board of County Commissioners determined that Maketa had "engaged in inappropriate relationships with three female subordinates resulting in preferential treatment that allowed those individuals to disregard El Paso County Sheriff's Office Policies and Procedures...inappropriately attempted to influence internal affairs investigations...and refused to cooperate with investigators and declined to be interviewed." Now the FBI, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the El Paso County District Attorney's Office are all looking into accusations that Maketa went undercover with three of his high-ranking subordinates and subsequently promoted them to high-paying positions; there's also a probe into how Maketa spent the office's budget and whether he created a hostile work environment by intimidating county employees who wanted to speak out about what was going on. The investigation came out of a complaint that three commanders within the department filed with the county last May; Maketa, who is term-limited, hasn't been seen much around the office since then.
Back in 2013, the Colorado Supreme Court's Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel accused 3rd Judicial District Attorney Frank Ruybalid of mishandling sixteen different criminal cases over a three-year period. The 68-page document outlined 29 instances of alleged misconduct by the prosecutor, who was elected in 2008 to serve Las Animas and Huerfano counties, saying that he failed to obey court orders or disclose evidence and then dismissed cases when judges or opposing counsel complained. But it turns out that that complaint was just the opening act. At the end of that year, Ruybalid's office, along with two southern Colorado police departments, concluded a massive drug-sting investigation, rounding up and arresting forty people, many of them longtime community members with no prior record for drug arrests. As Westword reported in a November cover story, several of the arrests were based on faulty information provided by a pair of very suspect informants, and Ruybalid has since dismissed all of the charges against the forty people, although a few have suffered life-altering consequences, like being fired from their jobs. Ruybalid could face the same thing: A hearing in the 2013 ethics investigation is set for March.
Colorado has seen its fair share of cancer fakers over the years -- and many of them have ended up in our Hall of Shame, since preying on people's good intentions by pretending to have a potentially fatal disease is a particularly shameful brand of fraud. But Sandy Nguyen's ruse may have been the lowest of the low, because she also convinced her own son that he had cancer. In September, Nguyen pleaded guilty to child abuse and charitable fraud; she was later sentenced to three months in jail and five years of probation. The boy had been diagnosed with a skin condition in 2012, but over time, police said, Nguyen convinced family members and people in the community that he had cancer. In response, they held various fundraisers, collecting more than $25,000 to help with medical costs -- about $16,000 of which Nguyen used to pay for a family trip to Disneyland. But the worst part is that Nguyen told her son that he was receiving chemotherapy at night while he slept; she shaved his head every morning to make it look like that was true. The boy told investigators he thought he had leukemia and was going to die.
Jefferson County School Board member Julie Williams sure does love the good ol' U.S. of A. She hates how the country was born, though, and how it moved beyond slavery and inequality -- because, you know, there was some civil disorder and strife involved. So in September, Williams and two other conservative boardmembers asked the school district to study whether AP U.S. History classes should only "promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage." In other words, the curriculum should disregard most of our nation's formative moments, like the Boston Tea Party, the Civil War, the civil-rights movement, the labor movement, anti-war protests and, of course, the current wave of protests targeting racial profiling and police brutality. But Williams ended up on the wrong side of history in more ways than one: Her ideas sparked a week of protests and student walkouts -- the same kind of thing she didn't want kids to learn about. The board later backed away from the proposal.
The People of Colorado House District 15
Although the people of Colorado House District 15, in Colorado Springs, can't be blamed for Douglas Bruce -- the photographer-kicking, enemy-making, tax-hating grump who may have arguably been the worst state representative in Colorado's history was appointed rather than elected -- they do bear responsibility for Gordon Klingenschmitt. And they've got some 'splainin' to do. The author of The Demons of Barack H. Obama, a book claiming that President Barack Obama is possessed by demons, Dr. Chaps, as he calls himself, also believes that gay people sexually abuse their children, that they should be discriminated against, and that their demons should be exorcised. A former Air Force chaplain who was court-martialed in 2006 for appearing in uniform at a protest at the White House that decried the government's rules on non-sectarian prayers, Klingenschmitt is also the leader of the Pray in Jesus Name Project, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has listed as a hate group. And now he's a Colorado representative. Thanks, voters of HD District 15. Thanks.
In his resignation letter, Woodland Park mayor David Turley wrote: "The reality is that given the allegations against me and the legal constraints placed upon me, I cannot continue to provide the attention to the city of Woodland Park that it so richly deserves." But what did the city of Woodland Park, located just northwest of Colorado Springs, do to deserve this mayor? Turley was arrested in May after a police investigation resulted in charges of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust. More specifically, the 65-year-old Turley was accused of touching the teen's genitals while they were sitting in a hot tub at Turley's house. Police also said that Turley had taken numerous pictures of the boy, which he kept on his computer, and had bought him a variety of gifts, including sports equipment, a video-game system and an iPhone. Turley, a longtime local politician, tried to hold on to his position as mayor, but eventually stepped down in July after a recall petition began circulating. He has maintained his innocence all along and pleaded not guilty to the charges; a trial is scheduled for May.
It wasn't a good year for the Colorado Rockies, and July was particularly bad -- which is saying a lot for a team that ended the season 66-96, third worst in Rockies history. Owner Dick Monfort had opened the season with high hopes: The star players were healthy, and Coors Field had just installed a breathtaking new rooftop patio, where it planned to sell party tickets to people who come out for the atmosphere more than the baseball. Good idea, because after a great start, things began to plummet (as usual), and by the All-Star break in early July, the team was a terrible 40-55. And then Monfort opened his mouth, giving an interview to the Denver Post in which he appeared befuddled by how bad the team was. He also e-mailed frustrated fans, telling them where to stick it. "If it is that upsetting don't come to the games," he told one. "If I don't like a restaurant because of the food or prices I just don't go, Colorado Springs has a different experience, maybe that would be more enjoyable." Perhaps "Denver doesn't deserve a franchise," he told another. "If product and experience that bad don't come," he wrote to a third. But the Rockies sell most tickets based on location rather than quality, so the team will likely continue to draw big crowds -- crowds who get to wear T-shirts with star Troy Tulowitzki's name spelled wrong. Yeah, that happened in July, too.
Navigating government paperwork is difficult enough for people who were born in the United States and speak English. But for immigrants who are trying to earn a living, earn citizenship and learn the language, it can be a lot tougher. Which is why many hire immigration attorneys like Emily Cohen to help with visas, work permits and other documents. But that also makes them vulnerable, and in December a Boulder jury found the 34-year-old Cohen guilty of 13 of 21 felony theft counts she faced after being charged with taking thousands of dollars from clients without providing promised services. She'd first been arrested back in February, after seven families complained; many more clients came forward after the news got out, and Cohen was ultimately charged with 54 counts. So far, the families have been reimbursed about $228,000. Cohen is set to be sentenced next year and will also face disbarment.
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