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DA to investigate wiretapping allegations; one employee placed on investigative leave

Jennifer Smith
jsmith@littletongazette.com
8/12/11

Littleton City Manager Jim Woods has requested the Arapahoe County District Attorney’s Office initiate an investigation into the possible improper use of the Littleton Police Department’s (LPD) new telephone recording system.

On August 1, Chief Heather Coogan acknowledged that phones in the new Littleton Police Department facility were being recorded prior to notifying employees. However, she added that nobody but two employees in the Information Services Department had access to the recordings prior to training sessions last Tuesday and Wednesday.

According to state law, at least one person on the phone must know it is being recorded, otherwise it's considered wiretapping, a class six felony

Last week, Woods issued a statement saying he didn't believe there had been any violations of the law, but a press release sent today says new information has surfaced, without elaborating.

"Although the city has not received any formal complaints about improper use of the system, new information has come to light that raises concerns as to whether an LPD employee listened to recorded messages on another employee’s phone," reads the release.  "As a result, one employee of the LPD has been placed on indefinite, paid, investigative leave." 

The city's communications department has declined to confirm the identity of the employee.

The Arapahoe County D.A.’s Office will determine whether state or federal eavesdropping or wiretapping laws were violated.

"The District Attorney's Office is prohibited from commenting on any open and ongoing investigation; including the identity of those being investigated," said spokeswoman Casimir Spencer. "When information becomes available - at the completion of the investigation - we will make all members of the media aware."

As part of the plans for the 14,000-square-foot expansion of the LPD building, an upgraded and expanded telephone system with recording capabilities was included in the budget.  It was installed this summer on the phones of employees of the rank of sergeant, detective, lieutenant, commander, and the chief – a total of 26 phones.

Depending on the outcome of the criminal investigation, the city may also conduct an internal investigation, according to the press release.

Editor's Note: We just received this and wanted to be sure to get it up immediately as we know many readers are interested. Be assured we will follow up as new information becomes available.

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UPDATE
10/28/11

City Manager Michael Penny has confirmed that the employee who has been on paid investigative leave since August 12 will be returning to work Oct. 31 and will not face criminal charges.

Penny said that in an effort to maintain neutrality, the matter was investigated by the Arapahoe County District Attorney's Office, which handed over its findings to the El Paso County District Attorney's Office for review. That office recommended no charges be filed, Penny confirmed.

An internal investigation will take place over the next several weeks. Penny said he'll determine what, if any, disciplinary measures will be taken when it's over.

"Up to and including termination," he said, adding that employees will be guaranteed confidential interviews, most likely away from the City Center.

"It will be nice to get all this behind us," said Penny. "I've got lots to do."

Editor's Note: We have requested the findings of the investigation from the El Paso DA and will update when we get them.