Ivan Moreno & Hector Gutierrez
Rocky Mountain News
ELBERT COUNTY, Colo — An Elbert County sheriff's deputy who was fired earlier this year claims the department is rife with corruption, including unjustified arrests, on-the-job drinking and strip searches of women while deputies watched.
Those allegations are included in a letter of intent to sue, dated June 14, 2007, sent by William R. Sherman to Sheriff William Frangis and some of his command staff.
Sherman, 38, claims he was fired because he notified his supervisors of the misconduct he saw and he refused to go along with it.
"Basically, they just told me, 'Deal with it,' " Sherman, 38, said of the reaction he go when he complained about the behavior of his co-workers.
Frangis on Wednesday denied Sherman's claims, saying, "I consider them all to be ridiculous, absolutely false. I would like to further comment, but because of the pending litigation, I really can't."
During his two years in the sheriff's office, Sherman said, he saw Sgt. Don Heald wait outside a bar for people to leave and then arrest them.
"That has not happened," Heald said Wednesday night when asked about the allegation.
Heald said he didn't know about Sherman's notice to sue because he has not spoken with the sheriff, and said he had no idea why Sherman would name him in the notice.
Early this year, the sergeant came under the scrutiny of District Attorney Carol Chambers, who refused to accept his testimony to prosecute cases because she alleged he fabricated evidence.
Sherman and his attorney, Bradley Pollock, said they plan to file a lawsuit in Elbert County District Court. Sherman is seeking $500,000 in damages.
"When someone makes these ridiculous claims, and they want to go to court, I actually look forward to it because I am very comfortable with the actions of the sheriff's office," Frangis said.
While some of Sherman's accusations are documented in letters he wrote to his supervisors while he was employed, others were revealed in his letter of intent to sue.
Sherman said that on a couple occasions, male deputies conducted strip searches of female inmates while other officers looked on and Frangis made lewd comments.
Sherman, who said he was not given a reason for his termination in February, also accuses Frangis and another high-ranking officer of drinking while on the clock.
"The sheriff, you could sometimes tell he would come back from lunch, and he would have the odor of alcohol on his breath," Sherman said.
The complaints outlined in Sherman's letter aren't the first time the sheriff's alleged behavior has raised eyebrows.
In 2004, 9News reported that an Elizabeth police officer said he smelled alcohol on Frangis' breath after he pulled him over for running a stop sign.
At the time, Frangis told reporters he had drunk only one beer that day.
Last October, a state investigation revealed that Frangis was allowing law-enforcement license plates - including plates intended for undercover operations - to be used on personal vehicles.
In December, a man said Frangis lunged at him with clenched fists during a meeting and "violently screamed at him," according to a Kiowa police report dated Jan. 25. No charges were filed.
Copyright 2007 Rocky Mountain News
Ex-deputy says Colo. department is corrupt