Tes­ti­mony re­veals shift­ing al­liances

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Lance Ben­zel

In the sec­ond day of tes­ti­mony in the cor­rup­tion trial of ex-El Paso County Sher­iff Terry Maketa, de­fense at­tor­neys chal­lenged wit­nesses over the 2013 fir­ing of a woman who had drawn his ire. At is­sue is whether the em­bat­tled for­mer law­man com­mit­ted ex­tor­tion when he told top of­fi­cials of a jail health care con­trac­tor that he would yank a $5 mil­lion med­i­cal ser­vices con­tract un­less they ter­mi­nated Wendy Habert.

“It threw us into a bit of a tail­spin and we didn’t know how to re­spond to it,” said Carl An­der­son, a for­mer ad­min­is­tra­tor at Nashville, Tenn.-based Cor­rec­tional Health­care Com­pa­nies, Inc.

Habert, a CHC em­ployee who worked at the jail and over­saw the lu­cra­tive con­tract, was soon fired.

In tes­ti­mony that drew fire­works on Thurs­day, Habert framed her ter­mi­na­tion as an act of re­venge by Maketa — partly be­cause she ac­cused a top-rank­ing sher­iff’s com­man­der of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and partly be­cause she re­fused to help Un­der­sh­er­iff Paula Pres­ley run to suc­ceed Maketa.

The de­fense, which de­scribed Habert as a “prob­lem em­ployee” dur­ing open­ing state­ments, ham­mered on what they por­trayed as her check­ered job per­for­mance, in­clud­ing times she used ob­scene lan­guage dur­ing con­fronta­tions with Maketa and Pres­ley.

But An­der­son and a sec­ond CHC of­fi­cial told the jury they had no rea­son­able grounds to ter­mi­nate Habert prior to Maketa’s threat.

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