Some see lack of transparency, broken campaign promises after Steamboat Springs City Council vote
Steamboat Springs — The Steamboat Springs City Council’s split decision not to seek a more thorough summary of a recent internal police investigation is being met in the community with a mix of anger, disappointment, surprise and some support.
Some community members and former council members are calling the council’s decision a vote against government transparency. They think the decision also will make it more difficult for the community to move past the recent investigation that led to the departures of the city’s top police officials and city manager.
“It was disappointing,” former Councilman Jon Quinn said Thursday about the council’s 4-3 vote. “I think it’s difficult for the community to move forward without having more information about what happened here.
“It’s difficult to second-guess legal advice. But ultimately, I have to say the council works for the citizens, and unfortunately, I don’t think they lived up to their responsibility when they cast those votes against transparency.”
Quinn urged the council to reconsider.
Others, meanwhile, are backing the council’s decision.
“I don’t know that it would benefit the community to know all the details from the investigation,” former council president Loui Antonucci said. “I kind of sympathized with (the council). It’s an internal type of thing. I would assume that, based on the report, the city manager did what she thought was appropriate and made the changes that needed to be made.”
Community member John Kerst, who has served on a number of volunteer boards and committees, said he also respected the council’s decision.
Concerned about liability issues and further harming a police department in the process of healing, council members Heather Sloop, Tony Connell, Robin Crossan and Walter Magill on Tuesday voted against seeking more information about the findings of the investigation.
Council members Scott Ford, Kathi Meyer and Jason Lacy wanted the summary and felt it was necessary to provide more information about the probe to the public as a means of closure.
The minority of council members also wanted more information so they could better weigh the changes being implemented by new Police Chief Cory Christensen.
Council members themselves have not seen many of the reports that detail the findings of the investigation.
Interim Police Chief Jerry DeLong denied an open records request from Steamboat Today seeking the reports that have not been released.
Steamboat Today on Wednesday submitted an open records request seeking an accounting of all taxpayer dollars spent on the investigation.
The council’s decision not to seek more information came immediately after it met for an hour behind closed doors with city attorney Tony Lettunich and a Denver attorney who works for the city’s insurance company.
Council members said the attorneys advised against releasing more of a summary due to the potential liability issues such a release could create.
Former council President Kathy Connell was disappointed by City Council’s decision.
“It reminds me of calling for an audit and then refusing to release the findings of an audit,” Connell said.
Connell agreed with the three council members who felt the city could release a summary of the investigation without compromising the confidentiality that was promised to witnesses during the probe.
“There’s nothing like transparency, and they certainly could have made a decision somewhere in between,” she said.
Hoping for fresh start
Steamboat resident Ed Miklus, who served as a school superintendent in New Jersey, said the council “damaged its integrity” following Tuesday’s vote.
“I think most of us were expecting a fresh start of new transparency with this council, and that certainly did not come to pass last night with that 4-3 vote,” Miklus said. “There needed to be more transparency. The first rule of problem solving is you have to identify the problem, and if you don’t identify the problem, how are you going to solve the problem?”
Because taxpayers paid for the investigation and the report, he said, they should have more access to the findings.
Miklus added he felt council members Crossan and Sloop, who campaigned on promises of bringing more openness and transparency to the council, “reneged” on their campaign promises by voting against seeking a more thorough summary of the investigation.
“I think the public needs to bring pressure to bear on the four council people who voted against transparency to reconsider their vote and for the new members to live up to their campaign promises of having a transparent government where people can trust them,” he said.
Crossan said Thursday that, while she said during her council campaign that she wanted as much information about the report released as legally possible, she decided not to seek a more thorough summary due to fears such a release could violate confidentiality promised to witnesses.
“During the campaign, I had people say to me, ‘I have a friend, I have a spouse; my daughter, my son work for the police department, and if you were to release that information, they might not be able to work there anymore, and they might lose their friends,” Crossan said.
She said she has seen mixed reactions from community members in the wake of Tuesday’s vote.
“I’ve had people come up to me and ask me why I voted the way I did, and I’ve had people tell me they were surprised the vote went that way,” Crossan said. “And I’ve had people say ‘its time to move on.’”
What do you think of council’s decision? Leave a comment below.
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