Emails show City Council got an earful from disappointed constituents after police investigation vote |

Emails show City Council got an earful from disappointed constituents after police investigation vote

New city website reveals community wants more information about police probe

A police cruiser sits outside the Steamboat Springs Police Department headquarters on Yampa Street.
John F. Russell

— Emails released by the city of Steamboat Springs on Tuesday reveal the strong pressure this city’s elected officials have been facing from the community to revisit and reverse their decision not to give the public more access to the findings of an internal police investigation.

Shortly after Steamboat Springs City Council President Walter Magill said last week that he felt it was only a “vocal minority” in the community wanting more information about the probe, the council’s email inbox started lighting up with messages from disappointed citizens.

A local bike store owner, businesspeople, a doctor, former police officer, local attorney, ski coach and several other longtime residents wrote to the council urging it to release the investigation reports in full or provide a more thorough summary of them.

Some wanted to let the council know they did not feel they were part of a “vocal minority.”

Without the findings of the investigation, many residents said the community will not be able to move forward, and its view of the police department will remain tainted.

“The citizens of Steamboat Springs funded the investigation, and are entitled to full disclosure of the report,” Sally Hertzog wrote to the council. “I am amazed that even the City Council itself has not seen many of the findings of the investigation. Don’t you want and need to know more, so that the problematic issues can be revealed and solved??”

Concerned about liability issues and hurting a police department that is in the process of healing under a new chief, the council voted, 4-3, on Dec. 1 not to seek a more thorough summary of the probe.

The police investigation, which was launched after a former police detective and officer described a hostile work environment and overly aggressive policing at the department, led to the departures of the city’s top police officials and city manager.

Of the 32 emails the council received between Dec. 7 and Dec. 10 about the police investigation, not one communication expressed support for the council’s earlier decision not to seek more information.

“Many folks in the community may be willing to move on, but those of us who read the letter with the accusations (against the top police officials) are not,” Emily Seaver wrote to the council. “As a new council it is not a great way to build the confidence of the folks who voted for you to push this matter aside.”

Longtime local doctor Jim Dudley said he believes that by not releasing the investigation’s findings to the public, the council is allowing the community to imagine a situation at the police department that is “not nearly as bad as many of us are now thinking.”

Rick Bear wrote to the council, “I have never been so embarrassed by actions of our police department or the non-actions of the city council” during his more than 40 years of living here.

He urged the council to “suck it up and do the right thing.”

The city posted the emails on a new website it created dedicated to the police investigation Tuesday.

The website also gives citizens access to all of the bills, press releases and reports related to the investigation that the city has released so far.

Some of the emails the council received are also critical of new councilwoman Heather Sloop, who did not disclose that she was taking flying lessons with a main subject of the probe before she voted not to seek more information about it.

Sloop has since apologized for not disclosing her relationship with former Deputy police Chief Bob DelValle, who announced his retirement at the conclusion of the investigation.

Some community members called on Sloop to resign, while another said he wished he could take back his vote for her, because she is not “an honest and transparent candidate.”

“I believe that it will be hard to trust her going forward and it would be best she would resign ASAP,” Monte Rhoades wrote to the council.

He added he disagreed with the council’s “bury it and move forward” attitude.

During a break at a city council meeting last week, Sloop could be overheard asking a fellow council member about the number of votes needed to be recalled from the council.

Her potential conflict of interest combined with the public outcry about the council’s decision not to seek a more through summary of the investigation spurred the council to reconsider its initial vote.

Sloop will step down from tonight’s reconsideration of the vote.

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

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