Steamboat City Council to hold emergency meeting to discuss police chief misconduct allegations
Council members react to police misconduct allegations
Some Steamboat Springs City Council members on Monday offered their initial reactions to accusations of misconduct against the city's top two police officials.
"It's kind of a bummer," council president pro-tem Scott Myller said, adding the letter that outlines the accusations was "tough" to read. "I don't want to deal with it, but we've got to deal with it. Hopefully, (the letter) isn't true."
Myller said he wanted to make sure the investigation into the allegations is "on the up and up," and that it's fair and trustworthy.
Council member Scott Ford said he couldn't comment on the allegations.
He said council has an oversight role, and there should be a benefit from the council getting together on Wednesday to ask "are we doing all we can?"
Council member Walter Magill said the allegations in the letter were "disturbing."
However, he noted that "it seems (the allegations) might be coming from a disgruntled employee."
He also questioned why the allegations weren't brought up when the former detective was working at the police department.
Magill said he wants to see a thorough investigation into the claims.
"The allegations were disturbing, but they are allegations," he said.
Steamboat Springs — The Steamboat Springs City Council will meet behind closed doors Wednesday night to discuss the city’s upcoming investigation into the damaging accusations of misconduct against Police Chief Joel Rae and Deputy Police Chief Bob DelValle.
The emergency meeting was called Friday, less than two days after council members read a 10-page letter from former Steamboat Police Detective Dave Kleiber that alleges Rae and DelValle have created “an atmosphere of fear and intimidation” and “a hostile work environment” at the police department.
Kleiber, who left the department in 2013, also accuses Rae of “rampant sexism,” “bigotry” and “heavy-handed policing.”
The Steamboat Today is not publishing the letter or the specific accusations at this time.
Council members said Monday they want to meet to ensure the city’s pending investigation into the complaints against Rae and DelValle is fair and thorough.
Asked Monday what his reaction was after reading Kleiber’s letter, council President Bart Kounovsky took a long pause before answering.
“When something like that comes out, it needs to be acted on by the city and the council, and that’s what we’re going to do,” he said. “This is such a big issue, we felt it couldn’t wait until our next council meeting.”
He said he was very comfortable with the steps City Manager Deb Hinsvark has taken so far to respond to the allegations.
Hinsvark said the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency, which provides the city with insurance and legal and human resources advice, has selected an investigator who will look into the allegations against Rae and DelValle.
Hinsvark described the investigator as a woman with a “strong legal background” from the Front Range.
The city is not providing the name of the investigator at this time, saying city staff has not had a chance yet to formally discuss the investigation with her and finalize the schedule.
Hinsvark said the investigation will start next week and is expected to last 60 to 90 days.
The investigator is scheduled to start conducting in-person interviews here on April 6. The visit will be preceded by some phone interviews and evidence gathering.
“We hope the outcome is a better, stronger department,” Hinsvark said. “Hopefully, I’m coming down on the side of what’s best for the city.”
She said the police department will be working under a cloud during the investigation, but the department continues to be “healthy.” and it’s been “business as usual” in recent days.
“This is a bigger issue than police matters,” she continued. “It has to do with governance and the health of the city in total. The reaction clearly needs to be to take these issues seriously, but not to take them immediately at face value without having this inspection. You have to be fair to everyone involved.”
Not taking action
Since Kleiber’s letter landed in the email inboxes of several elected officials and other community members last week, no action has been taken against Rae or DelValle.
“The city is better represented by having them there right now and working than by not having them there,” Hinsvark said Monday.
She said she has talked to people in the police department since the allegations surfaced, and they “like having (Rae) there.”
In weighing what to do after reading the letter herself, Hinsvark said there were a number of factors that led her to take no action against the leaders of the police department at this time.
She labeled much of Kleiber’s letter against the leaders of the police department as “hearsay,” and she said the claims needed to be investigated before any action could be considered.
She added that she knows that some of the accusations in Kleiber’s letter are not accurate.
“There have to be factual reasons to put someone on administrative leave,” she said.
Kleiber told the Steamboat Today last week that there “is nothing in (the letter) that is embellished. There is nothing in there that is made up.”
Hinsvark said that taking action like putting anyone on paid leave before the start of an investigation could set a bad precedent.
In addition, Hinsvark said the lack of viable replacements for Rae and DelValle, who have served with the police department for many years, factored into her decision.
She noted that Police Captain Jerry Stabile, who is not targeted in Kleiber’s letter, is currently out on vacation.
As the City Council prepares to discuss the upcoming investigation and the city’s response to the allegations, seven former City Council presidents and president pro-tems, a Routt County commissioner and the Routt County sheriff are calling on the city to place Rae and DelValle on paid administrative leave while the investigation is underway.
They wrote in a letter that not doing so would “damage the credibility of all of our governing institutions, mostly importantly the city’s police department.”
Hinsvark said if the investigator believes the police chief and deputy police chief’s presence would hinder the investigation, she would have no choice but to put Rae and DelValle on leave while the probe is underway.
The council will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Citizens Hall. The only item on the agenda is an executive session, which is not open to the public.
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