King cooked timecard, violated policies, says boss
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.
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.
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.”