City of Steamboat Springs releases police investigation community summary | SteamboatToday.com

City of Steamboat Springs releases police investigation community summary

Scott Franz and Matt Stensland

Steamboat Springs City Manager Deb Hinsvark speaks to police department employees before a city council meeting.

— A vague two-page document released by the city of Steamboat Springs on Tuesday gives the public very little information about the findings of the investigation that looked into serious accusations leveled against Police Chief Joel Rae and Deputy Chief Bob DelValle.

According to the community summary of the investigation the city released, investigator Kathy Nuanes determined the allegations that the city’s police pension plan was being financially mismanaged were unfounded.

The five other reports investigator Nuanes prepared for the city were withheld from the community summary because they involve “personnel matters.”

The full summary can be viewed here.

“These reports were completed and are being reviewed by city staff,” Nuanes wrote. “These reports are considered confidential to insure (sic) that personnel matters are handled in a thorough way, and the only way to insure (sic) that thoroughness is to ensure privacy. The need for candid, honest statements by individuals is critical to an investigation, and by knowing their comments will not be public allows that essential honesty to occur. Confidentiality also limits any discussion in order to not taint or perpetuate the issues.”

In the wake of the March allegations by former detective Dave Kleiber, Nuanes was hired to conduct an investigation. Rae and DelValle were placed on administrative leave.

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Rae resigned from his post Friday, and DelValle announced his retirement Monday.

On July 10, the Steamboat Today filed a records request for the reports prepared by Nuanes.

City attorney Tony Lettunich wrote on July 15 that the reports by Nuanes are criminal justice records, and he forwarded the request to the custodian of criminal justice records at the police department.

“As to any records which might arguably be outside of the scope of the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act, we are treating those requested documents as personnel records and as such, (they) are not available for review,” Lettunich wrote.

The Steamboat Today is considering its legal options.

The Steamboat Springs City Council met again in executive session Tuesday night to discuss personnel matters related to the police investigation.

Asked after the meeting about his reaction to the investigator’s findings, Council President Bart Kounovsky said he was now looking forward and the council would make improving the police department a big focus in the coming months.

“We need to drill into, as a council, improvements that need to be made within our police department,” Kounovsky said.

Asked if he thought the community summary of the investigation’s findings should satisfy the public, Kounovsky said the city is in a tough spot when it comes to releasing information.

“We’re walking the fine line between personnel issues and things that could be released to the public,” Kounovsky said.

The council also agreed to a request from councilwoman Sonja Macys to add another executive session on the Aug. 4 agenda to discuss personnel.

Before Tuesday’s council meeting, City Manager Deb Hinsvark met with police department employees.

During the meeting, one employee asked about the police department investigation report.

“I think the community may feel that they don’t get what they really hoped to get out of this report,” Hinsvark said to the staff. “Everything that you said is very confidential, and none of that will be shared. Reports of this nature have value when we can ensure that your confidentialities aren’t violated.”

Craig Police Department Commander Jerry DeLong has been serving as interim chief during the investigation.

“He will continue as we go through this process,” Hinsvark said to the staff. “He may even throw his hat in the ring, which I think would be a very good thing. Whether he does or he doesn’t, we are so lucky to have him during this transition.”

There will be a nationwide search for a new police chief.

City staff was unable to provide a total cost associated with the police investigation on Tuesday night.

Anne Small, the city’s director of general services, said she would be able to provide a cost for the investigation and the employment of the interim chief on Wednesday.

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

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