DougCo sheriff's alleged labor law violations focus of investigation

Mike McKibbin
Douglas County Sheriff's Department

By Mike McKibbin/NewsBreak Denver

[DOUGLAS COUNTY, COLO.] A Colorado-based law firm will handle a labor law investigation involving the Douglas County Sheriff's Department.

The move follows the removal of Commissioner Lora Thomas as board chair by her two fellow commissioners in late April.

At an April 26 work session, Commissioner Abe Laydon claimed Thomas had caused a "high level" resignation of a county first responder by distributing an anonymous letter received by the county that detailed concerns about sheriff's department employees.

He also claimed Thomas had written a letter requesting private information about supporters of the Renewable Water Resources water project being considered by the county.

Thomas has called those allegations unsubstantiated and false and claimed the move was a political stunt to support her opponents in the race for sheriff.

"We had an exit interview where an allegation of wrongdoing was made and if we were a business, this is what we would do," Commissioner George Teal said during a Monday work session.

On Monday, Thomas sought clarity about the scope of the investigation.

"There's been talk about I doxxed people and I never released anyone's personal information," she said.

"Doxxing" is the act of publicly revealing previously private personal information about individuals or organizations without their permission.

County Attorney Lance Ingalls said the investigation would be limited to allegations of a hostile work environment and improper dismissal as possible labor law violations.

Laydon added he had received some "fairly straightforward inquiries and I'm getting some added information" that could expand the scope of the investigation. Laydon did not elaborate.

Law firm familiar to county

On April 28, the commissioners voted 2-1 to direct staff to seek a neutral outside party to examine the circumstances surrounding a former sheriff's department employee and her concerns about an alleged hostile work environment and claim of constructive discharge.

Four outside firms were contacted and three responded: Holland & Hart at a rate of $530 an hour, Sherman & Howard at $395 an hour and Employers Council at $195 an hour. Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber and Schreck did not respond.

Ingalls recommended the commissioners go with Sherman & Howard since the county has a history with the firm. Laydon and Teal directed Ingalls to negotiate with the firm but hold off on any work until further information is provided.

Ingalls also noted in a memo to the commissioners that the hourly fees do not include travel and other costs that may be in the final approved contract. He also stated there has been no discussion of the approximate number of hours or a cap on hours.

Ingalls wrote that while the scope of work may evolve as the investigation moves forward, it would include:

• Initial fact-finding regarding allegations of conduct that may violate county policy;

• Document gathering;

• Scheduling and conducting interviews of current and/or former employees and elected officials;

• Objective evaluation of facts as they relate to legal standards of employment and/or elected office;

• Reporting and documentation of findings;

• Discussions of legal concerns and risks; and

• Recommendations, if appropriate.

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Mike McKibbin is an independent journalist on Colorado's Front Range and covers Douglas County for NewsBreak.

Denver, CO

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