Steamboat police chief, deputy chief put on paid administrative leave | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat police chief, deputy chief put on paid administrative leave

Steamboat Springs Police Chief Joel Rae

— Steamboat Springs City Manager Deb Hinsvark announced Friday that Steamboat Springs Police Chief Joel Rae and Deputy Chief Bob DelValle have been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into serious allegations by former detective Dave Kleiber.

Hinsvark said it was a joint decision between herself, Rae and DelValle.

"We all agreed that this was the best way to move forward at this time," Hinsvark said.

In the interim, Capt. Jerry Stabile has been named the acting chief.

“Chief Rae and Chief DelValle and I have agreed that it would be better to give this investigation a clear and unimpeded path (and also no appearance of impediment)," Hinsvark wrote in an email. "As a result, they have been placed on administrative leave for the term of the investigation."

City Council President Bart Kounovsky declined to comment about Rae and DelValle being put on leave. Rae did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Kleiber, who left the department in 2013, distributed an email with a letter on March 18 that alleges that Rae and DelValle have created “an atmosphere of fear and intimidation” and “a hostile work environment” with “heavy-handed policing.” Kleiber also accuses Rae of “rampant sexism” and “bigotry."

Seven former City Council presidents and president pro-tems, a Routt County commissioner and the Routt County sheriff signed a letter calling on the city to place Rae and DelValle on administrative leave while an investigation into the allegations was underway.

Those feelings were again expressed Wednesday during an emergency city council meeting with Kleiber and Sheriff Wiggins telling the City Council the police department leaders should be placed on leave.

The decision was ultimately Hinsvark's to make, and she herself came under fire. On Friday, "Fire Hinsvark" signs were posted at bus stops and the post office.

Hinsvark said Friday night that she wanted to take her time, meet with staff and get the investigation process going before making the administrative leave decision.

"It's hard to make decisions like this," Hinsvark said. "You don't make it easily."

The city has hired retired Littleton Police Chief Heather Coogan to conduct the investigation into the allegations, which is expected to start Monday and take two to three months.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland