Coogan out, new police investigator named
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs city officials announced Thursday night they have chosen a new investigator to look into allegations of misconduct against Police Chief Joel Rae and Deputy Chief Bob DelValle.
A city news release said that after the controversy surrounding the hiring of former Littleton Police Department Chief Heather Coogan, Coogan withdrew from the job. Coogan said she regretted there was a perceived conflict of interest that arose because she came recommended by the city’s insurance carrier.
“I am confident that my background and experience would have ensured an independent and unbiased investigation, but I recognize that if the community does not share that faith, it doesn’t matter,” Coogan said in the news release.
Katherine Foos Nuanes, principal with Nuanes Consulting, is now under contract for the investigation. According to Karl Gills, the city’s public information officer for the investigation, Nuanes will be paid $110 per hour plus expenses. Coogan was being paid $150 per hour plus expenses.
According to the city, Nuanes was recommended by Ron Sloan, director of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. She has 31 years of investigation and management experience in police services and has conducted more than 70 internal investigations, including code of conduct issues, sexual harassment and harassing work environment among many other scopes of investigations.
The decision to hire Coogan drew criticism from some citizens and at least one city council member, according to an email received Thursday after the city released a records request filed by the Steamboat Today.
One email is from March 27, two days after the City Council held an emergency meeting to hear public comment and discuss legal issues related to the accusations in private.
The email was sent from council member Tony Connell to City Manager Deb Hinsvark, who chose Coogan for the investigation. Council President Bart Kounovsky was copied on the email.
“I will advocate that you step back and consider the pros and cons of you personally ‘heading up’ the investigation,” Connell wrote to Hinsvark. “What are the pros/benefits to you and the city? Most of it is downside…”
Connell wrote that he was concerned the investigation would “dominate” Hinsvark’s time.
“You have the opportunity to improve your credibility with the community by handing this off entirely to a third party until the report and recommendations are complete,” Connell wrote. “Then you can take the report and recommendations and make different recommendations to us if you think different actions will be effective given your personal judgement on the staff involved.”
In his email, Connell also questioned Coogan’s controversial past and said he feared that the results of the investigation would be “tainted.”
According to the city news release, Nuanes received her bachelor of arts degree from Chadron State College with a double major in political science and criminal justice and her masters in criminal justice from the University of Colorado.
Her police career began in 1983 as a patrol officer, and most recently, she served as patrol watch commander and an administrative commander with the Arvada Police Department. She left active police service in 2014.
Information on Nuanes and her firm can be found at http://www.nuanesconsulting.com.
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