Documents from the Denver District Attorney’s office investigation into Denver’s two top cops call into question the truthfulness of both Chief Robert White and Deputy Chief Matt Murray.
The investigation looked into whether or not the Colorado Open Records Act request was violated when White and Murray failed to disclose the existence of a letter from then-Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey that heavily criticized the department’s handling of a sexual assault investigation involving one of its officers.
9NEWS obtained the investigation documents through a public records request from the Denver District Attorney’s office. The nearly 200 pages of interviews, emails and more than 30 minute interview audio file are part of the investigation into what happened after the police union requested the letter from DPD. The scathing note from Morrissey was sent to White in May 2016 regarding Murray’s handling of a sexual assault case.
The investigative documents shine a light on what happened behind closed doors regarding the CORA request, from putting blame on a secretary to a city official calling the actions of Deputy Chief Murray and Chief White as “clearly deception.”
The District Attorney’s office declined to file charges on May 25, 2017. In a statement, District Attorney Beth McCann said the investigation concluded there was not enough evidence “to find a knowing and willful violation of CORA beyond a reasonable doubt.” However, McCann said in that same statement that the Colorado Open Records Act requests “were handled carelessly by DPD, particularly by Chief White and Deputy Chief Murray.”
In December 2016, the police union asked for the Morrissey’s May 2016 letter to the chief. Since it is public record, the letter should have been turned over to the union by Department of Safety Records Coordinator Mary Dulacki.
In an email to Dulacki, Deputy Chief Murray simply told her: “I have no records responsive to this request.” The record in question was about Murray.
So, Dulacki responded to the police union there was no such record to give. When she learned the District Attorney’s office had the letter and did supply it to the police union, she went to Chief White for answers.
Safety Records Coordinator Dulacki said White “initially pretended to not know” what letter she was talking about. A few moments later, he told her he no longer had the letter and therefore couldn’t give it to her for the records request.
Murray, who was also in the meeting, told Dulacki, “We can’t provide what we don’t have.”
After further prodding, she found out that both White and Murray had not asked Chief White’s administrative assistant Bee Ling Withers if she had retained the letter. Dulacki asked her and “within a couple of minutes” according to the investigators notes, the secretary produced the letter.
In her interview, Dulacki said CORA requests can only be “as good as the integrity and honesty of the people I deal with.” She also revealed the two top officers in the Denver Police Department spoke about the “spin language they would use” when the letter was released to the police union.
“This is clearly deception,” she is quoted as saying in the DA’s investigative documents.
Investigators also interviewed Chief White’s administrative assistant, Withers, who said she felt she had become a scapegoat.
“No one even asked me,” Withers said.
“Uh huh. About what?” asked the investigator.
“About the CORA request,” Withers replied.
Withers told investigators she learned she was being blamed for not turning over the letter after reading it in the news.
At the end of January, 9NEWS spoke with Murray about what happened.
“In this case I was the subject of this complaint so I had nothing to do with the letter or where it was so when we were asked, I didn’t have a copy of the letter. It turns out that the chief’s secretary did have a copy of the letter on her computer,” he said.
The documents show Chief White’s administrative assistant wasn’t asked about the letter until weeks after the original CORA request and after the union was told there wasn’t any letter.
That’s something that didn’t sit well with her.
“I take great pride in my work. So I think for me it was more like, ‘Well, if you didn’t ask me, then don’t mention me in the newspaper.’ Because it made it sound like I had the letter and didn’t want to give it. And that’s not the case. You can call me whatever name you want but don’t question my like, integrity at work,” Withers said during the interview.
Although District Attorney McCann did not file charges against White and Murray, there is an internal investigation into the alleged CORA violations.
Until recently, violating the Colorado Open Records Act could result in a misdemeanor charge. However state lawmakers removed the criminal consequence out of the law this past legislative session.