Criminal probe of King’s actions weighed by DA
Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger confirmed he met Thursday with the heads of multiple law enforcement agencies about the possibility of undertaking a criminal investigation of state Sen. Steve King, now the Republican nominee for county sheriff.
Hautzinger stressed he’s made no final decision on pursuing a probe of King’s affairs. King was fired June 6 from a temporary job at the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, and an internal affairs investigation concluded King falsified at least one time card in May in addition to violating code-of-conduct policies.
“I have received multiple inquiries from citizens asking for a criminal investigation,” Hautzinger said Thursday.
Hautzinger did not identify the agencies represented at Thursday’s meeting and declined further comment on King’s situation.
King handily won Tuesday’s primary election against Constitutional candidate John Pennington, whose supporters have cried foul over the timing of disclosures of King’s woes.
King’s internal affairs file was released to The Daily Sentinel on Tuesday under a Colorado Open Records Act request filed Monday by the newspaper.
With no investigators on staff, Hautzinger says his office is hamstrung in its ability to conduct independent investigations of potential criminal matters.
The Grand Valley’s two largest police agencies, the Sheriff’s Office and the Grand Junction Police Department, both employed King at various times during King’s 32-year career in law enforcement.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation, now overseen by former Mesa County sheriff and Colorado Public Safety Director Stan Hilkey, also handles criminal investigations when conflict or possible perception of conflict is raised at the local level.
In a statement Tuesday to The Daily Sentinel, King said the Sheriff’s Office internal affairs report amounted to “a lot of strong language ... over a $90 mistake.”
“I have apologized to everyone involved at the sheriff’s department and would hope my unblemished track record of 32 years of law enforcement in this valley would outweigh a $90 bump in the road,” King said.
Mesa County Sheriff Rebecca Spiess, serving as undersheriff when King’s time card issues were raised, personally handled the internal affairs matter and concluded discrepancies on King’s time card were not an “error or misunderstanding,” but a conscious effort to offset hours he’d lost when told to adjust the record.
King submitted a time card showing 106 hours for the pay period of May 10 to May 20. He was told to submit a second time card, one reflecting breaks.
King did, but the second time card showed total hours worked increasing, not decreasing as expected, from 106 to 119.
King stormed out of a meeting with Spiess when confronted and was fired days later by Hilkey, who expressed “extreme dissatisfaction” with King over the episode, according to internal affairs records.
King, a former sheriff’s investigator, has performed audit and compliance work for the Sheriff’s Office since 2007 and was hired in a temporary capacity after his election to the Colorado House in 2006.
Asked if the time card issue calls into question older records submitted by King, Spiess told the newspaper there’s “no evidence to believe of a past problem or we would have investigated any allegations then.”