Our view: City council must reverse its decision | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: City council must reverse its decision

At issue:

The City Council voted against releasing a more detailed summary of the internal police investigation a week ago, and on Tuesday night, the council decided to revisit the issue and take another vote.

Our view:

The council should do what’s right by reversing its decision and releasing the report’s basic information in a more detailed summary.

In an unexpected turn of events, the Steamboat Springs City Council changed direction Tuesday night by deciding to revisit a 4-3 vote it took last Tuesday to deny the release of additional information about an internal police investigation that led to the departure of the city’s police chief, deputy police chief and city manager.

Our view:

The council should do what’s right by reversing its decision and releasing the report’s basic information in a more detailed summary.

The decision to take a re-vote on the issue came after Steamboat Today reported Monday that councilwoman Heather Sloop had not publicly disclosed the fact former Deputy Chief Bob DelValle, one of the main subjects of the police investigation, was her flight instructor.

The undisclosed conflict of interest, as well as negative feedback the council has been receiving from the public in reaction to its police investigation decision, were brought up at Tuesday night’s specially called meeting to interview city attorney candidates.

After discussion, the council decided it would take another vote on the police investigation issue at its Dec. 15 meeting, and they determined Sloop should not vote due to the perceived conflict. Sloop also issued a public apology.

The council’s decision and Sloop’s response go a long way toward restoring public trust, and now we urge council members to take it a step further by reversing their earlier decision and voting to provide the public with a more thorough summary of the police probe.

The residents of Steamboat are not clamoring for sordid details; they only want to know the basic facts about the investigation — were the 10 or so charges made against the police department and its leaders true or false and what changes will be made as a result? — and they want to be assured that a full and comprehensive investigation of the allegations was conducted.

The council members who voted against releasing a more detailed report said they made their decision based on a desire to move forward under new police leadership and to avoid future litigation. This reasoning concerns us, and we think the decision to keep themselves and the public in the dark about the police investigation works directly against the idea of “moving forward.”

We have every reason to think the new police chief is the right man for the job and has what it takes to improve Steamboat’s police department, but he and his officers will continue to work under a cloud of suspicion and distrust unless the public gets some closure about the police investigation. It also will be impossible for the council or the community to assess whether the appropriate policy changes have been made if they are unable to identify the basic issues that prompted the overhaul.

Some members of the public characterized last week’s decision by the council as a vote against government transparency, and it met with varied reaction from the community that ranged from disbelief and disappointment to outright anger. Council President Walter Magill’s statement that only a “vocal minority” was interested in a more detailed summary of the police investigation added fuel to the fire and couldn’t be further from the truth.

Public interest in the police investigation is far-reaching, and it is an issue that is not going away. With or without the release of additional information, lawsuits stemming from the police investigation are probable, but the fear of being sued is not justification for failing to do what’s fundamentally right.

The council was elected to represent the residents of Steamboat Springs, not to protect city interests, and we think the credibility of the new council will be seriously damaged unless it decides to reverse the decision it made last week.

In light of Sloop’s admission that she failed to disclose a possible conflict of interest before last week’s vote, the council has been handed an opportunity for a re-do.

We urge council members to step back, reassess their positions and do the right thing by voting to release more information about the police investigation. By doing so, they will reassure the public that this council is truly committed to openness and transparency. And only then can the city truly move forward.

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