COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A Colorado sheriff is speaking out on what he calls "extortion" to get sheriffs across the state to change their position on gun control bills.
"As I see it, senate Dems have made it known, 'Sheriffs, obey or no pay for you,'" El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa wrote on his website. ”The first word that comes to my mind is extortion."
Maketa said the threat came in an email after dozens of sheriff's went to the capitol last week to speak out against several gun control bills.
Maketa himself testified March 4 against the expanded background check bill.
Maketa said on his website he was concerned about "the probable criminalization of law abiding citizens and the unenforceability of this particular bill."
"I offered other options knowing we all share the common goal of reducing violence," Maketa said.
But Maketa said that his pride was quickly diminished when he left the hearing room and witnessed what he called, "hundreds of citizens who would not be given the opportunity to testify."
"I’ve witnessed very controversial bills set in a process to allow full access from supporters, opponents, and citizens to be heard by their legislators," Maketa said. " On Monday, this didn’t occur."
Maketa was upset that Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, was allowed to testify and not some Colorado citizens.
"He [Kelly] admitted he had not read the proposed bill and could not speak to any specifics regarding this bill," said Maketa. "He encouraged Colorado to adopt universal background checks and close the gun show loophole, both of which already exist. Sadly, he testified with unlimited restriction as voters and taxpayers of this state sat helplessly as they were denied the right to testify during committee hearings."
Maketa said two days later, he received an email from a member of the County Sheriffs Of Colorado.
"Basically the email said that the Senate Dem leadership is very upset with the Sheriffs and their opposition to the gun control bills," Maketa said in a radio interview on KVOR.
"Support of SB197 would put us in a more favorable light for a salary bill support from the Dems," the email said according to Maketa.
Maketa was outraged.
"As I see it, senate Dems have made it known, 'Sheriffs, obey or no pay for you,'" Maketa wrote on his website. ”The first word that comes to my mind is extortion."
On the radio, Maketa went even further.
"I felt it was almost bordering extortion, attempted influence of public officials," Maketa said.
"There were no threats that were ever intended in that email," Chris Olson, the executive director of the County Sheriffs of Colorado, told KRDO-TV.
Olson said Maketa was "on his own" with the claims.
Maketa told the TV station he still believes what Olson described was a threat from Democrats. He said he now has as many concerns about Olson as he does Senate Democrats.
"I'm taking that up with leadership of the sheriffs' association," Maketa said.
On Facebook this week, Maketa said, he has not been directly threatened.
"I want to make something very clear; I have not been directly threatened or coerced in any way nor would I tolerate any threat," Maketa wrote. "A message delivered verbally to a representative of the Colorado Sheriff's Association basically stated that the Senate Dems are very upset with the Colorado Sheriffs opposing the gun legislation proposed by the Senate Democrats. This message insinuated that this could negatively affect the salary bill which has been delayed and put off by the Democrats with the excuse that they would expect bipartisan support. I do believe the salary proposal is being held hostage."
7NEWS reached out to the Colorado Senate Majority office for a statement on the controversy.
"Sheriff Maketa's 'evidence' of Senate Democratic leadership extorting or influencing public officials is a chain of internal emails between sheriffs and CSOC speculating on the political climate at the Capitol. The Executive Director of CSOC has since confirmed that no legislator or legislative staffer attempted to influence the group regarding salaries," said spokesman Doug Schepman. "The email chain points out the true reason a salary bill has not been introduced -- it lacks the support of Sheriff Maketa's own party."
Maketa released the emails between him and Olson. Read them here: http://tinyurl.com/ba6p6gt
Read Maketa's statement on his website: http://shr.elpasoco.com/
Read Maketa's statements on his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/maketaforsheriff