Mesa County Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley, who has been suspended from her job, was charged Wednesday with felony burglary and a misdemeanor cyber crime.
A warrant for Knisley’s arrest was issued on Friday for second-degree burglary and cybercrime unauthorized access, according to court documents. Knisley, 66, turned herself in to the 21st Judicial District Court on Wednesday.
On Aug. 23, Mesa County Administrator Peter Baier and the county’s director of human services served Knisley with official and written notice that she was “suspended as a Mesa County employee,” according to the arrest affidavit. Knisley is not an elected official.
Grounds for the suspension, obtained from multiple sources, are that Knisley “engaged in inappropriate, unprofessional conduct in the workplace,” the affidavit said. Her access to computers, networks and servers were disabled.
On Aug. 25, Baier received information that Knisley was inside a Mesa County worksite, the same area she had been escorted from on Aug. 23. At the worksite, Knisley had instructed Julie Fisher, the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Trainer, to print something off of Fisher’s Mesa County work computer, according to the affidavit. Baier, who went to the site, told Knisley she had to leave the premises or the police would be called. That same day, in response to a search warrant from the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office, investigators removed the work notebook computer from the office of Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters.
On Monday, the Colorado Secretary of State, Jena Griswold, filed a lawsuit to remove Peters from her role overseeing elections because the clerk is under criminal investigation for allegedly allowing a security breach of election equipment. The alleged breach is under investigation by the FBI and the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office, with assistance from the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.
The arrest affidavit for Knisley alleges that she was using Peters’ work station and computer after Knisley had been suspended. Peters has not been in her office since Aug. 9, according to the Knisley arrest affidavit.
“The charges (against Knisley) stem from conduct as a county employee after being placed on paid administrative leave due to a confidential personnel matter,” according to a Mesa County DA’s news release. “These charges are separate from the District Attorney’s Office’s ongoing investigation into criminal activity surrounding the security breach of Mesa County voting equipment. No arrests have been made related to the security breach investigation.”
The burglary charge stems from knowingly entering a building unlawfully. On Wednesday in court, Knisley was issued a $2,000 Personal Recognizance Bond and ordered to have no contact with the clerk’s office or its employees. Knisley’s next court appearance, for return of filing of charges, is scheduled for Sept. 9.
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