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Teller Sheriff side business prompts investigations

Posted at 9:59 PM, Mar 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-11 19:30:03-04

EL PASO COUNTY — There are questions about Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell, who runs a private security business on the side, a business that employed off-duty deputies from El Paso County and officers from the Colorado Springs Police Department. The story was broken by Pam Zubeck with the Colorado Springs Independent, who shared what she learned about her investigation with me and I followed up with questions of those involved in the case.

Zubeck said she received a tip about this relationship between the Teller Sheriff and local law enforcement several months ago, and then filed a freedom of information act request. She says was provided the now completed internal affairs investigation by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office on the role some of their deputies have played in this business.

Sheriff Mikesell is owner of the business called "iXero-LLC", that, according to the EPCSO's internal affairs investigation affidavit, focuses on security, surveillance, government contracting and training. At one time, the business employed several members of the joint CSPD and EPSO Interagency, Metro-Vice Narcotics Team. Sheriff Mikesell told internal affairs investigators and Pam Zubeck that some contracts are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Zubeck told me that her focus was to bring transparency to this side business of Sheriff Mikesell, who was elected in 2017. "Our goal is to bring attention to this arrangement, to let the voters and the taxpayers know that their sheriff has an elaborate side business that involves a network of all of these law officers whose behavior working for him has been called in to question by the very departments they work for."

I reached out to the Teller County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday for an interview, and was told they have chosen not to comment at this point, until they have read Zubeck's article, but would respond in some fashion on Wednesday.

However, Zubeck was able to speak with the Sheriff for nearly an hour in advance of her article where he told her, "The issue is, it's a private company, why should they (taxpayers) have issues with a private company, it doesn't interfere with anything I do here at the Sheriff's office". Sheriff Mikesell added, "No laws were broken" and "If they failed to get permission, that's their fault", referring to the officers and deputies hired by Mikesell to work for him.

So I went to the EPCSO and spoke with Jeff Kramer, Commander of Professional Responsibility and Standards, which includes the Internal Affairs Division about Mikesell's business and the involvement of EPCSO employees. Commander Kramer said he could speak on camera because their investigation is complete and that three deputies who worked for Mikesell were punished.

"We did find for at least a couple of the deputies were involved in the investigation, there were some sustained policy violations." Most notably he said, they did not submit the proper paperwork seeking permission for outside employment, which is mandatory. Two deputies received reprimands, the other was re-assigned, but all are still employed with EPCSO.

As for the Colorado Springs Police Department, I also asked for an on camera interview, but they declined sighting their ongoing internal investigation in to the matter.

But Zubeck interviewed experts in ethics for her story who believe this arrangement, while legal, raises some red flags. Of particular note, some employees of the private company who work for Sheriff Mikesell at the department. Zubeck said, "He has a commander working for him at the sheriff's office who also is on the payroll for his private business and that would create a conflict between whats the priority for that employee."

The Teller County Attorney Paul Hurcumb is aware of this arrangement, but to date has "never rendered an opinion" and has not received a complaint,. If he had, it would be sent to the state ethics committee for review.

As soon as the EPCSO began it's investigation last fall, all of their personnel involved with the company were to cease employment with Mikesell, immediately. As a result of the investigation, Commander Kramer told me that some minor changes have been implemented on the outside employment policy, most notably, limiting to two years an employment agreement with sheriff's employees having to resubmit a request for continued employment.

Kramer says "The policy speaks to certain types of outside employment that will not be allowed, those that have an obvious conflict of interest security or private investigative type work is one of those on face value, probably is not going to be allowed."

When I asked him about Sheriff Mikesell running a side business that employs local law enforcement, he said he was not comfortable addressing that. In an interview with Pam Zubeck, El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder made it clearwhere he stands when it comes to these kinds of ethical dilemmas. "He used to have a real estate license, he relinquished that long before he took office and he would never run a private business while he was sheriff, we asked why not, and he said because I'm never, not sheriff," Elder said.

Sheriff Mikesell told investigators for the EPCSO internal affairs investigation that he did not know if any sheriff's or police employees were working for him while on duty at their respective jobs. Commander Kramer told me that it is a "common practice" for deputies to have outside employment, which also includes teaching, instruction and training.

By the way, you can read Pam Zubeck's entire article in the Colorado Springs Independent by clicking here.