City council members want more information from police investigation released | SteamboatToday.com

City council members want more information from police investigation released

— Unsatisfied with the vague summary that has been released so far, several Steamboat Springs City Council members said Thursday they want City Manager Deb Hinsvark to release more information about the findings from the investigation into serious accusations against Police Chief Joel Rae and Deputy Chief Bob DelValle.

"It was too general," Councilman Walter Magill said of the summary, which the city released Tuesday. "I think you can put out a much more thorough summary than the report that was released."

Magill said the report should show whether all of the allegations that were investigated were founded or unfounded.

Councilman Scott Ford added the community summary fell "far short" of his expectations.

Both Ford and Magill also said they do not think the city has released enough information to the council itself.

"You cannot do process improvement with what we've got right now, and that's council's role," Ford said. "I'm very interested in protecting some of the confidentiality that was implied or guaranteed (during the investigation), but we need more of a summary than what we saw. There has to be an element that goes beyond what we've seen."

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Ford said he and other council members left a Tuesday night executive session called to discuss the police investigation frustrated.

He said part of the frustration stemmed from Hinsvark's decision to release the community summary of the investigation to the media on Tuesday, several hours before it was given to the council.

"Frustration and not meeting expectations characterize Tuesday night for me," Ford said. "The seven of us were a little thunderstruck."

Magill said he has also received feedback from constituents who were disappointed by the amount of information the city released about the investigation's findings.

He said one community member wondered if the lack of information was part of a "cover up."

"We asked the community to be patient with us while we got answers. I don't think we've provided the answers," Magill said. "I think we have to voice our opinion back to the city manager that we need more details on this. We need to get back in the room as a city council and talk to the city manager and the attorneys and get a report we can release."

To date, the city has spent just shy of $100,000 on the investigation, the employment of the interim police chief and a public information officer.

Magill noted the council needs to get more than a "paragraph" after spending tens of thousands of dollars on the investigation.

Councilman Kenny Reisman said he, too, would like to see more information.

"I think it's something that obviously there's an interest in, the large interest being, what can we learn from this investigation that can help us move forward and progress as a community," Reisman said. "At the same time, I recognize there are certain protections and case law that limited some of those disclosures."

Information limited

So far, the public has only been told that investigator Kathy Nuanes determined allegations the city's police pension fund was being financially mismanaged were unfounded.

The five other reports prepared by Nuanes were withheld from the public summary because they have been classified as "personnel matters."

City staff said they could not provide any more details on the other five reports.

The council itself has not seen all the detailed reports Nuanes prepared for the city.

The reports council members have reviewed include the one regarding the police pension plan and another, which focused on their city manager, who was interviewed as a part of the investigation.

In his letter, which initiated the police investigation, former police detective Dave Kleiber alleged that Hinsvark was aware of complaints about sexism, sexual harassment and a hostile work environment at the police department and took no corrective action.

Magill said the report reviewed by council members showed the investigator did not find evidence of "gross negligence" on the part of Hinsvark.

"There were certainly suggestions on how to handle employee reviews, and a recommendation the city hire a human resources officer," Magill said.

Asked if he felt the council has been provided with enough information to make improvements to the police department, Council President Bart Kounovsky said he had no comment.

On Tuesday, he said the city was walking a fine line between protecting personnel information and releasing information to the public.

Councilwoman Sonja Macys also acknowledged striking a balance between transparency and protecting the rights of city employees is a challenge.

"Obviously, this is a very sensitive topic because it's swirling around personnel," Macys said.

Calls to council members Scott Myller and Tony Connell to discuss the police investigation were not returned Thursday.

Steamboat Today has filed an open records request for all the reports prepared by Nuanes.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10