Douglas County Undersheriff Holly Nicholson-Kluth briefs reporters after a shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch, about 20 miles south of Denver, on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. At least seven people were wounded in the shooting, which started in the K-12 school's middle school division just before 2 p.m. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

This story first appeared in a Colorado Community Media newspaper. Support CCM’s neighborhood news. The Colorado Sun is an owner of CCM.

A heated conflict between the Douglas County sheriff and his former second-in-command — who is now running as a candidate to replace him — is headed to court after a lawsuit was filed in December.

Sheriff Tony Spurlock and former Undersheriff Holly Nicholson-Kluth’s feud involves a mishmash of investigations and accusations, including allegations of political scheming, domestic violence and deletion of personnel files. 

The rivalry has come to a head now that Kluth has filed a lawsuit against Spurlock — who is term-limited — alleging he suppressed her First Amendment rights and violated employment law and internal policies when he demoted her in 2020 and fired her in 2021. 

It all began with the 2020 election for Douglas County commissioner.

In September 2020, Spurlock, a Republican, publicly endorsed Lisa Neal Graves, a Democrat, who ran unsuccessfully against Republican George Teal.

Internal sheriff’s office files show that in the days that followed, the county’s Republican Party developed a plan to publish endorsements from the sheriff’s office command staff for Republican candidates, according to documents obtained by Colorado Community Media through a public records request. 

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock talks about the shooting at STEM School in Highlands Ranch on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

After being asked to participate in this plan, Kluth submitted a statement to the county GOP supporting conservative candidates, according to a Douglas County Sheriff’s Office investigation into the situation. She also posted that statement to her Facebook.

When Spurlock learned of the plan and confronted Kluth about it, she deleted the post and withdrew her comments to the GOP.

Following the internal investigation, Spurlock informed Kluth that he found her to have been in violation of several sheriff’s office policies. He also accused her of using her position to influence other members of the command staff to submit statements.

Kluth denies that. 

In November 2020, she was demoted because of the incident. Then, in May 2021, Spurlock fired Kluth, who said she was given no notice or explanation of why she was being let go. 

“He terminated me because I disagreed with him on my personal politics,” she told CCM.

 In an interview in November 2021, Spurlock said he fired Kluth because of “incredible poor ethics and bad behavior.”


Elliott Wenzler is a reporter for the Colorado Sun, covering local politics, the state legislature and other topics. She also assists with The Unaffiliated newsletter. Previously, she was a community reporter in Douglas County for Colorado Community Media. She has won awards for her reporting and photography. Elliott graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in editorial journalism and minors in both business and Spanish. She is also an avid rock climber, snowboarder and hiker. Twitter: @ElliottWenzler