Police investigation, city attorney hiring and ice arena expansion headline Tuesday Steamboat Springs City Council agenda | SteamboatToday.com
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Police investigation, city attorney hiring and ice arena expansion headline Tuesday Steamboat Springs City Council agenda

A large mat welcomes visitors to the Steamboat Springs Police Department headquarters on Yampa Street downtown.
John F. Russell

Other agenda highlights

• The council will hear a presentation about a potential expansion of the Howelsen Ice Arena.

• The council will consider hiring a new city attorney

• The council will discuss and finalize its list of goals for 2016

— The public will find out Tuesday what the Steamboat Springs City Council intends to do to bring closure to a recent internal police investigation that is still on the minds of many community members months after the investigation concluded, top police officials left and a vague summary of the probe’s findings was released.

Other agenda highlights

• The council will hear a presentation about a potential expansion of the Howelsen Ice Arena.

• The council will consider hiring a new city attorney



• The council will discuss and finalize its list of goals for 2016

After a recent public outcry and a determination that a council member should not have voted on the issue because of a possible conflict of interest, the council is reconsidering its Dec. 1 split decision not to seek a more thorough public summary of the probe.



Council members have heard from many community members in recent days who want more information about the investigation released.

“I have not heard a comment that said ‘just move on,'” Councilman Scott Ford said.

The police investigation was a topic at Ford’s most recent Coffee with Council session Friday.

“Much of the discussion that took place was centered around a thought that if we don’t nail this, if we don’t take some action, this will follow this council around much like the cloud that followed Pig-Pen around” in the Peanuts cartoons, Ford said. “It will anchor this cloud.”

Public comment will be accepted on the issue at Tuesday’s council meeting.

The council’s first vote on whether to seek more information about the probe was close and controversial.

In the days since the vote, the council has come under fire from some community members and former council members who called the 4-3 vote a vote against government transparency.

Some community members also have said that by not releasing more information about the investigation, some of the brand new council members have failed to deliver on their campaign promises of openness and transparency.

Former Steamboat Springs police officer Kristin Bantle, who last year told city officials there was a lack of transparency, possible gender discrimination and overly-aggressive officers at the police department, is calling on the city to give the council full access to the investigation reports.

She also wants an appropriate summary released to the public.

“Anything less at this time would be an affirmative vote to rule with fear and intimidation instead of governing with respect and trust,” Bantle wrote last week in a letter to the community. “I firmly believe we cannot have closure without reasonable and proper disclosure.”

Council members themselves have not seen the reports from the investigation that are being withheld from the public.

Former City Manager Deb Hinsvark said the reports detail what an investigator found about the management style of the police department. She said the investigator found a paramilitary culture at the department.

Former Police Chief Joel Rae said he disagreed, saying his department was no more militaristic than any other he was aware of and that it had been practicing community policing his entire career.

Rae and Deputy Police Chief Bob DelValle left the department at the conclusion of the investigation.

The council members who voted against a new summary of the probe said they wanted to look ahead and did not want to hurt a police department that is in the process of healing under the leadership of a brand-new police chief.

They also said City Attorney Tony Lettunich and a lawyer who works for the city’s insurance company told the council the release of a more detailed summary could pose liability issues and violate the confidentiality of witnesses who were interviewed during the investigation.

Councilwoman Heather Sloop will step down from the decision about the police investigation on Tuesday.

The council decided last week that Sloop should not have voted on whether to release information about the investigation, because she had taken flying lessons with DelValle, a main subject of the probe.

Sloop has since apologized for not disclosing her connection to DelValle before she voted not to seek a more thorough summary of the probe.

Interviews with some council members suggest they have been swayed by the public response to the Dec. 1 vote and will attempt to get more information about the investigation released.

Councilman Tony Connell, who voted with three other council members to not seek a more thorough summary of the investigation, said Monday he was working on a new proposal in regards to the probe, but he wasn’t ready to comment on it because it wasn’t finished.

Ford, who has been seeking a more thorough investigation summary along with council members Kathi Meyer and Jason Lacy, said the council has received dozens of emails from constituents who want more information about the investigation released.

“The thing we have to ask ourselves is how do we know this will not reoccur if we don’t know, at some level, what happened?” Ford asked.

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


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