Colorado Ethics Watch has been releasing a list of Colorado's Most Wanted since the political watchdog group started in 2006. This year's list contains four Colorado officials who wound up getting caught in some not-so-moral behavior. One of them is Terry Maketa, the El Paso County Sheriff accused of misusing funds and inappropriate sexual relationships with his employees; after releasing a video apology, he's retiring today, two weeks before his term officially ends.
Topping the list is state Senator Steve King, a Republican from Grand Junction. King was also featured on the 2010 list, for using his campaign funds to reimburse himself for travel expenses, among other things.
This time, King makes the cut after having been fired from the Mesa County Sheriff's Office after falsifying a time card; he also improperly charged Colorado Mesa University for work he never actually performed. He is currently under felony indictment, and is the subject of a Brady Letter. He dropped out of the uncontested race for Mesa County Sheriff last fall, but refuses to resign from his position in the state legislature. But since his term ends in January 2015, he won't be there for long.
Luis Toro, the director of Colorado Ethics Watch since 2010, thinks it's only fair that King got the top spot on the list. "It's not every day you see a Colorado state senator be indicted for state felonies," says Toro. Not that King's crimes diminish those of the others on the list, he adds: "I think all four of them are worth scrutiny."
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Also making the list is a government body that misused its power. The Denver Sheriff's Department has had a year of scandals surrounding the conduct of several deputies and officers. These problems forced Denver Sheriff Gary Wilson to step down after a four-year tenure, and the situation was not made better when Mayor Michael Hancock hired an interim sheriff who had a criminal record of his own.
Last -- but not least -- are three Pueblo City Council members who violated Colorado Sunshine Law by holding secret e-mail meetings and closed executive sessions. Sandy Daff, Chris Kaufman and Amy Nawrocki have since resigned, rather than face a recall election.
Although the list only contains four entries, that's not because Colorado is a spotless state. While other names could have been added, Toro says, the misbehavior connected with those names just didn't sink to the level of an indicted senator, a thieving sheriff or a law-enforcement body that misused its power. "We're not going to drag somebody in and label them as Colorado's Most Wanted just so we can have a certain number," Toro explains.
And it's not too early for public officials to start thinking about behaving better in the new year. "Stay tuned," Toro warns. "We're going to continue doing what we do in 2015." Have a tip? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.