This could get ugly. Hot on the heels of huge City of Denver payouts in cases involving Jamal Hunter and Marvin Booker, Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher blasted the Denver Sheriff's Department for a lack of transparency regarding his office's efforts to audit jail operations overseen by the DSD. A key quote from a letter sent to Mayor Michael Hancock that's on view below: "This kind of behavior and the refusal to provide needed information to my auditors makes me wonder what some people want to hide."
Last week, the Denver City Council voted to give $6 million to the family of Booker, who died in Denver jail -- and while the amount is among the larger ones dispensed in recent years, such settlements are hardly rare. Booker's original lawsuit features a stunning 33 cases of excessive force that resulted in the city ponying up -- so many that it took us two posts to share them all. And while not all of them involved the Denver Sheriff's Department's jail duties, a number of them did. Note the $7 million settlement over the jail death of Emily Rae Rice and $3.25 million to Jamal Hunter, whose injuries included scalded genitals.
Such settlements are presumably targets of inquiry by the auditor's office, which is expected to report on the jail operations by March 2015. But an e-mail string obtained by 7News shows that when asked for data on open Internal Affairs cases, a sheriff's department rep replied, "We have also told you from the outset that we will not be providing information on open Internal Affairs cases and therefore, we will not be creating the report you requested below."
Gallagher responded by taking the dispute public in his letter to Hancock. In it, he maintains that the refusal "is not only a violation of the city charter and the Denver Revised Municipal Code, but flies in the face of your commitment to have all your agencies cooperate with the Auditor's Office as we conduct our audits."
The letter adds: "The citizens of Denver deserve and expect to have an objective, unbiased, independent review of issues in the Sheriff's Department that may have led to some of the cases of abuse that have been seen over the last few years."
Denver City Attorney Scott Martinez is now in a position of middleman between the warring parties. His statement to 7News reads:
We take the Auditor's function very seriously and share his office's commitment to transparency and responsible government. That's why we have dedicated considerable time and energy to gathering the large amount of information the Auditor's Office has requested. However, there are often legitimate legal reasons that prevent records from being provided to the Auditor's Office. As with any disagreement between the Auditor's Office and a city department, my office will be reviewing these specific documents and making a legal determination on whether they can and must be disclosed.
Here's a 7News report, followed by Gallagher's letter to Hancock.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.