CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (CBS4)– The former Douglas County Deputy Clerk and Recorder, who was fired in 2013 after a CBS4 Investigation revealed what some viewed as attempted “ticket fixing,” has been awarded nearly $30,000 in severance payments.
Documents obtained from Douglas County show that the county agreed to pay Mike Acree $27, 823 following his termination and give Acree a neutral letter of reference. The county also agreed to put a memo in Acree’s file stating the county had not investigated the “ticket fixing” allegations.
In October 2013, a CBS4 Investigation revealed Acree, a former Douglas County sheriff’s commander, had attempted to intervene on a speeding ticket received by one of his female subordinates.
A sheriff’s deputy in neighboring Elbert County cited Acree’s employee for speeding and driving too fast for conditions on May 29, 2013. After learning of the citation, Acree then called Elbert County Sheriff Shayne Heap and left a voicemail. When Heap didn’t return the call, Acree emailed the sheriff using his Douglas County email address.
“On another note,” read Acree’s email, “in reference to the Citation I spoke about the MTC# is 0020500 written on 5-29-13 with a court date of 7-30-13 (the employee) received a citation for speeding. I have had a very stern discussion with her about Safety and her commute,” wrote Acree. “Could you look into the options available for a disposition of this citation, I would sincerely appreciate it, Mike.”
Sheriff Heap told CBS4 he felt he was being pressured to “fix” the ticket, which he would not do.
“It’s against everything we are supposed to do,” said Heap.
Acree insisted he was not trying to “fix” the ticket, just trying to see if Elbert County had any alternative programs that would allow the employee to perhaps attend a class and get the points and/or fine for the ticket reduced.
“I’m sorry he interpreted it that way… that wasn’t the intent,” said Acree. “The intent was to assist the individual in getting a reduction in points.”
One week later , Douglas County Clerk and Recorder Jack Arrowsmith said he fired Acree.
“It was a disagreement in philosophy about how this office should be run,” said Arrowsmith. “Do we like stories like that? No.”
But it turns out Acree received a soft landing, courtesy of Douglas County taxpayers. According to a separation agreement obtained by CBS4, Douglas County agreed to then pay Acree four months’ salary at a rate of $6,513 per month for a total of $26,052.
In addition, the County Manager “will sign a neutral Letter of Reference on behalf of the employee.”
Beyond that, the agreement also states that “a Memorandum will be placed in Employee’s Douglas County personnel file reflecting the fact that the County did not investigate, and therefore reached no conclusion concerning , an allegation made related to ‘ticket fixing’ on behalf of another County Employee.”
The county also agreed to toss in another $1,000, plus a year’s worth of medical premium differentials leading to the total $27, 823 settlement.
The agreement also states Acree’s personnel file will reflect “Resignation” even though Arrowsmith told CBS4 in 2013 that he had fired Acree.
The agreement also states “In addition, the parties have agreed that if Douglas County is asked whether Employee would be eligible for rehire, the County will state that ‘Employee is entitled to apply for any position in the County for which he believes he is qualified.’”
Jack Arrowsmith, the former Douglas County Clerk and Recorder who forced Acree out told CBS4 the severance deal “did not surprise me” since Acree had hired an attorney.
Lance Ingalls, Douglas County attorney, said 136 employees left Douglas County in 2014 but that in the last three years , “the county has found only two severance agreements that were signed after formal separation from the County had already previously occurred.”
One of those was for Acree.
Ingalls said in both cases, “both retained attorneys prior to severance agreements being negotiated and signed.”
Court records show the county employee who Acree tried to help eventually appeared in court and paid $302 in fines.