Sheriff probes vulgar e-mail about Meis

A message sent from a Mesa County e-mail account to all county employees, which included a vulgar suggestion for Commissioner Craig Meis, is the focus of an investigation at the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department.

The e-mail, obtained by The Daily Sentinel, read:

” ‘I am a County Commissioner.’

” ‘I know Pete Hautzinger.’

“It appears the State boys are not impressed by your local fiefdom.

“No wonder you have no problem shoving a County Administrator at us that has no ethics when you yourself have none. Birds of a feather.

“Resign—-hole.”

SHERIFF INVESTIGATES

The e-mail, which was either created or sent at 7:49 a.m. Wednesday, was distributed to all county employees from a county account with the identity, “MUGS Mug Shots.” Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said the account is a general-use account accessed by multiple individuals inside the department. A limited number of employees in other county departments also have access to the account, she said.

“We do not think this is a joke, and the sheriff is taking this very seriously,” Benjamin said. “We’re incredibly embarrassed. It’s not appropriate by any means.”

Approximately 1,300 people send and receive e-mail through Mesa County’s system, county spokeswoman Jessica Peterson said.

The Sentinel has a pending request under the Colorado Open Records Act for the county’s policies for appropriate employee use of its e-mail system.

With an investigation under way, Benjamin said the department hadn’t ruled out the possibility someone outside hacked the county’s e-mail system to send the message.

The latter possibility represents a potential criminal act. Protected criminal case information is sent and received over the system between the Sheriff’s Department, the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office, the Mesa County Department of Human Services and various outside law enforcement agencies, Benjamin said.

Meis did not return a phone message Thursday or respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

A two-term commissioner, Meis used his county e-mail account June 23 to lodge a protest with Mike King, director of the Department of Natural Resources, criticizing what Meis called Colorado State Parks Officer Craig Johnson’s “lack of discretion” in issuing him a ticket June 18. Meis was ticketed for allowing his 14-year-old son to operate a personal watercraft at Highline Lake State Park; state law requires personal watercraft operators to be 16. Meis copied several local and state elected officials on the e-mail.

Several employees of the Sheriff’s Department, which must absorb deep cuts in the 2011 budget, were critical of the County Commission’s decision earlier this month to offer the county administrator’s job to Michael Freilinger at a salary $15,000 above the previous administrator, according to e-mails published Wednesday by The Sentinel.

Freilinger was the county manager of Osceola County, Fla., until he was fired in April.



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