King cooked timecard, violated policies, says boss

EXTRAS


Sen. Steve King



State Senator and Republican nominee for Mesa County Sheriff Steve King falsified at least one timecard while committing five code-of-conduct violations as determined in a Sheriff’s Office internal affairs investigation ongoing since late May, according to records obtained by The Daily Sentinel.

The episode caused King’s firing June 6 — some 18 days before Tuesday’s Mesa County primary election.

With voters casting final ballots in the race for sheriff, Mesa County Sheriff Rebecca Spiess on Tuesday released King’s internal affairs file to The Daily Sentinel pursuant to a Colorado Open Records Act request that was filed by the newspaper on Monday.

The King internal affairs investigation started in late May and closed this past Friday, she said.

“The public interest is served by this disclosure,” Spiess said Tuesday, while anticipating criticism about the timing.

“If there had been any other way (to disclose) when this first came to our attention in May, we would have done it,” said Spiess, who assumed office with the June 13 departure of Sheriff Stan Hilkey. “But we needed to follow the process we always follow.”

She said of Tuesday’s release, “We feel solidly we can do this and it’s the right thing to do.”

Spiess, among others in senior positions at the Sheriff’s Office, donated money to King’s campaign for sheriff over recent months, according to state records. Spiess rejects suggestions King’s woes were suppressed toward protecting a candidate perceived as “our guy.”

“If we had any interest in trying to delay activity surrounding notification to the community, we wouldn’t have investigated it,” Spiess said. “That’s not who we are.”

King, who received the final internal affairs report on Tuesday, downplayed the investigation.

“There’s a lot of strong language on a thick report for what amounted to expressing my frustration over a $90 mistake,” he said in a statement. “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 on Friday said he’d mailed $390 to the Sheriff’s Office toward clearing the air in the reporting dispute. The difference between the $90 referenced by King on Tuesday and the $390 figure wasn’t immediately clear.

Spiess, meanwhile, said in a letter to King that she’ll send a “Brady letter” to Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger. Prosecutors are required to provide notice to defense attorneys of sustained misconduct by police officers.

King, a former sheriff’s investigator, may be called as a witness in a retrial of 51-year-old Michael Blagg in the 2001 murder of his wife, Jennifer.

‘CODE’

The Sheriff’s Office internal affairs report paints King as a temperamental, temporary employee fond of text messaging, who had pleaded with Spiess asking to “make this right” as recently as this past Sunday. A former sheriff’s investigator, King was elected to the Colorado House in 2006 and hired in 2007 in the capacity of a temporary, hourly wage employee of the Sheriff’s Office. Most recently, he was performing audit and compliance work.

The investigation started around May 22 or May 23 when Susan Redmond, the agency’s compliance director, contacted Spiess over concerns about King’s timecard, according to the report. The first timecard included no breaks for the period of May 10 to May 20, showing 106 hours.

King was asked to submit a second timecard, but reflecting breaks.

King did that, but included extended hours at the end of shifts, except for May 17.

That’s a discrepancy of 106 to 119 hours worked for one pay period.

Spiess wasn’t satisfied with what she heard from King on June 4, which was when King was available to discuss the issue.

“I told him (King) that under normal circumstances if an employee could not explain a situation satisfactorily, the next steps could be a polygraph,” the report reads. “He wanted to know, ‘What are you going to do about it?’ I asked him, ‘What are you going to do about it?’”

King replied, “I have to think about this.”

King left the meeting. He returned to Spiess’ office a few hours later and told her “in a sarcastic manner ... it sounded like I was accusing him of falsifying his time sheets and stealing from the County.”

“He asked me if I was questioning his honesty,” the report said. “I stated, ‘I guess that’s where we’re at.’ He stood up, stated, ‘We’re done here’ and stormed out.”

King later texted to Spiess that “he would be taking the remainder of the week off and that he could be reached by text or phone.”

On June 5, King sent Spiess the following text: “Putting that paperwork side by side I can see how you would draw the conclusion that you have. You should do what you need to do to make this right in your mind and in line with your Code.”

Spiess didn’t respond.

On June 6, an apologetic King sat down with Spiess and Hilkey.

King said he’d “find employment elsewhere, if necessary.”

“That’s where we’re at,” Hilkey replied. “You need to find employment elsewhere.”

Hilkey expressed “extreme dissatisfaction” with King, the report said.

“Bec’s Code should be (your) Code,” Hilkey said, referring to King’s text on June 5.

In the end, Spiess concluded the timecard issue wasn’t a misunderstanding, but a conscious effort by King to offset what he’d lost when he adjusted the timecard to include breaks.

“I believe the facts support a preponderance of evidence that Steve King falsified at least one his timecards, if not both,” Spiess wrote.

FINDINGS

The internal affairs investigation found conduct violations on five points relating to “general conduct” and “job performance.” By King’s own admission, he wasn’t “good” about writing down times despite a job requirement of recording timecards accurately and completely; King said he wasn’t successful in separating his political campaign from Sheriff’s Office duties; King’s storming out of the Spiess meeting was “inappropriate and unacceptable”; and it wasn’t determined if either of the two timecards at issue was correct or factual. To date, King hasn’t explained the discrepancy, the Sheriff’s Office said.

“Is there any way you and I can make this right?” King texted Spiess just before noon on Sunday, according to the report.

Spiess didn’t respond.

King added, “By ‘making this right’ I mean having a meeting and understanding the conflict or disagreement for better clarity in order to find the appropriate resolution to this misunderstanding.”

Spiess said there was no misunderstanding.

“K,” he said, “Thank you for your time.”


COMMENTS

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Good job waiting until after the Primary to let voters know their pick for top cop is a scofflaw. Classic good-old-boy don’t let the people know whats up, GJ politics. But why do conservative Mesa County Republicans like so much to engage in taxpayer graft?

I’m speechless. One would have thought that after being reprimanded for his campaign spending he wouldn’t be elected as a Senator, but he was. One might also assume that one reprimand was enough and he’d clean up his act, but he didn’t. Now it is very likely that he will be elected Sheriff because he has an “R” after his name, and is quite photogenic. I’m wondering what it takes for people to figure out that the candidates hand selected by a few elite Republicans do not represent the values and work ethic of the true Westerner. For the record, Benita Phillips is a friend of mine, and I will be supporting her candidacy. She’d be a hell of a lot better than any of the other candidates we have to choose from, and she can squeeze the buffalo off of a nickle when it comes to fiscal responsibility.

By S. Price At this rate I wonder how many other hours he made claim to over the years and didn’t work or how many other misconduct issues that got swept under the carpet. Another premier candidate by the GOP.

Maybe the game got changed from King at all costs to get past the Primary then wait for the outcry from the public. To right the perception of wrong doing , the GOP puts the pressure on King to step down (maybe there is a job waiting for him, or a business servicing fire fighting planes)and they appoint a new hand picked replacement. And who would that be? Maybe a female with law experience who is such a fast learner that she moved up from civilian employee to under sheriff in record time?

The released report opens more questions than it answers.

How many years has this been going on and been swept under the rug? King’s arrogance on this issue leads me to believe this is not his first rodeo when it comes to altering his records.

The obvious is to investigate all of his time sheets from 2007 forward.

We now have a Sheriff candidate who cannot testify in court. What will happen to the Blagg Retrial? King’s testimony was a large part of the trial. The Defense must be salivating at the thought of getting King on the Witness stand.

King’s answer of leadership as the solution to his problem is laughable. You can not lead if the people you intend to lead do not respect you. How would he be able to reprimand anyone in the department? If it were me and he tried to reprimand me, I would laugh hysterically.

However Spiess defense of the way this was handled is also laughable. The people had the right to know that King was fired and why he was fired from the Department he wants to run. I have a feeling last night’s results might have been different if the Department was on the ball in releasing this information instead of holding it until the weekend before the ballots were due. 14,000 votes? I am sure some would have changed their minds.

This is truly a disgrace. A disgrace for King, a disgrace for the Republicans and a disgrace for all those who endorsed King in this race.

Steve King should recuse himself from this race.  His behavior is a disgrace.  I would encourage everyone to research the only candidate on the ballot who is overly capable to serve as Sheriff for Mesa County:  that is Pat Arotin.  He is a current deputy, has a Master’s degree in law enforcement management and is one of the most upstanding citizens I know.  As a nurse practitioner with 2 master’s degrees, I would have no idea how to run a law enforcement agency and take offence that Benita Phillips thinks she is capable of the position. Pat Arotin is the only candiate that can protect our rights, our lands and our safety!

Ms. Twardowski, I have had experiences that most Nurses never have had the opportunity to have. I have lived and worked in an active war zone (the first Gulf War); I have taken on two large out-of-compliance Long Term Care facilities and brought them back under compliance; I have started health programs overseas that are still in place today. I have been blessed with such a varied Nursing career.  Unfortunately, some Nurses do not seek those experiences. But I have known Nurses that run Human Resource departments, who are Lawyers, who run their own businesses, that have run for state and federal offices (I think there is one Senator at present that is a Nurse).  Don’t short change your knowledge and experience. If you have found your niche as a Practitioner then I congratulate you. Nursing, as a public service career, is very akin to law enforcement. Both jobs require you must care for its community members in one of the most difficult periods of time in that community member’s life. You and I are lucky to have cared and continue to care for our community.

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