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DougCo sheriff candidate previously investigated for official misconduct

Holly Kluth, candidate for Douglas County sheriff and the former undersheriff, is denying allegations that she ordered another employee to alter her personnel file.

CASTLE ROCK, Colorado — A Republican candidate for Douglas County sheriff and the county’s former undersheriff is denying allegations that she ordered another employee to alter her personnel file years ago, after documents detailing an internal affairs investigation were obtained by 9NEWS.

It’s the second internal affairs investigation in as many years for Holly Kluth, who was demoted and fired from the department earlier this year following a separate internal affairs investigation. This most recent investigation ended with investigators recommending official misconduct charges to the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. But the DA opted not to prosecute the case.

This most recent investigation was launched when Kluth’s attorney requested her personnel file from the sheriff’s department while preparing a federal lawsuit against Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock contesting Kluth’s firing.

According to the investigation, when sheriff’s office staff began to prepare the file, they found a discrepancy, a file had been deleted from the department’s human relations computer system.

The Douglas County Sheriff requested an outside authority, the Jefferson County Sheriff, to investigate this case against Kluth.

According to a report from Jefferson County sheriff investigators, an internal audit discovered Kluth had accessed her personnel file six days before a subordinate deleted the file. Investigators interviewed the sheriff’s office employee who deleted the file who claimed he had been ordered to delete the file by Kluth. Through her attorney, Kluth declined to be interviewed by Jefferson County investigators, the report said.

The file in question involved a 1988 Park County sheriff police report detailing a felony menacing call. A Park County deputy interviewed Kluth’s now ex-husband who claimed he and Kluth were arguing. According to the report, her ex-husband told the deputy Kluth had been drinking and pointed a pistol at him, threatening both him and herself, before discharging a round into the floor.

Jefferson County investigators recommended charges of first- and second-degree official misconduct against Kluth, according to the report. But the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office opted not to prosecute.

“Our determination not to file charges was made for two reasons,” Assistant District Attorney Tom Byrnes wrote in a letter dated Oct. 25. “First, the statute of limitations has run on any potential charges. Second, even if the statute of limitations had not expired, the evidence is insufficient for a reasonable likelihood of success at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.”

In the letter, the prosecutor said the statute of limitations is 18 months. The alleged conduct happened in April 2019 and wasn’t investigated until the summer of 2021. The prosecutor also said since high ranking officials knew about the alleged conduct and didn’t report it, the likelihood of success at trial would suffer.

When contacted by 9NEWS Monday, Kluth said she was unaware of the 1988 case and didn’t know about the internal affairs investigation. She denied the allegation that she ordered another employee to alter her personnel file. Her attorney told 9NEWS Kluth has no criminal record.

“The baseless allegations put forward by Tony Spurlock are simply the latest example of political retaliation against Ms. Kluth for staying true to her conservative principles,” Kluth’s attorney Siddhartha Rathod said in a statement to 9NEWS. “Ms. Kluth is committed to fighting for her First Amendment rights to free speech and political association, as well as those of all Douglas County citizens, and to ensuring that decisions at the Sheriff's Office are made based on public safety, not politics.”

Rathod’s firm is suing Spurlock on behalf of Kluth. In a case filed last week, Kluth alleges she was demoted and fired from her position as undersheriff and chief deputy at the sheriff’s office because she disagreed with the sheriff on political candidates. The lawsuit claims this was a violation of Kluth’s right to free speech.

An internal affairs investigation in 2020 revealed Kluth violated department policy by engaging in politics on the job. According to that investigation, after Spurlock, a Republican, publicly supported a Democrat in the race for Douglas County Commissioner, Kluth was contacted by a member of the Douglas County Republican Party trying to rally support of other law enforcement leaders in Douglas County behind the Republican candidate. Kluth made a statement on her personal Facebook page supporting conservative candidates.

That investigation led to Kluth’s demotion from undersheriff. Spurlock fired her months later. Her lawsuit alleges Spurlock said Kluth wasn’t “living up to his mission, vision or values,” according to the lawsuit.

The suit claims Spurlock’s actions were retaliation.

Spurlock wouldn’t comment to 9NEWS on the pending litigation and said the documents involved in each allegation “tell the whole story.”

Spurlock is set to retire when his term ends in early 2023. Kluth is among a growing field of candidates interested in the job, including current Douglas County Commissioner Lora Thomas.

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