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Gazette's top dozen of 2011

Jennifer Smith
jsmth@littletongazette.com
12/25/11

What a whirlwind year it's been, right? In case you blinked and missed something, here are snippets of  LittletonGazette.com's 12 most clicked-on stories of 2011, our inaugural  year. To read the full stories, click on the headlines.

12. Different visions of downtown

Ever since Greg Reinke took the helm of the Historic Downtown Littleton Merchants earlier this year, he’s been talking up Main Street and the many events he and other merchants are planning.

“My goal is to let us grow up,” he said.

11. New police building good
for morale, say employees

The Littleton Police Department hosts a dedication ceremony for its expanded facility this Friday, the culmination of a long and often controversial process.

In September 2006, an independent study of the department found that its space at the time was “woefully insufficient.” In 2010, city council approved using money from an obsolete water fund to expand the facility.

10. Recording sheds light on
Staiert's sexual-harassment
allegations against judge

LittletonGazette.com has obtained a recording of a Feb. 10 conversation between former City Attorney Suzanne Staiert and Presiding Municipal Judge James Anderson, facilitated by Erich WonSavage, the city’s director of human resources.

City council fired Staiert on Sept. 20, the same day she filed a sexual-harrassment complaint against Anderson with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. The complaint also alleged council retaliated against Staiert by hiring an attorney to investigate her after she reported the unwanted behavior to the city’s human-resources department.

9. Christensen cleared by
internal investigation into
wiretapping allegations

An internal investigation by the city into Littleton Police Department Div. Chief Bill Christensen, instigated by allegations the department was recording its employees’ phone calls without their knowledge, has resulted in no disciplinary action.

“The city has concluded an internal affairs (IA) investigation as a follow up on the El Paso Criminal Investigation,” City Manager Michael Penny wrote in an e-mail to LittletonGazette.com. “City policy is to complete the criminal prior to the IA. … All other details of any IA are confidential and personnel related.”

8. City manager says recordings
are not a violation of the law

Attorney David Lane has weighed in on allegations that the Littleton Police Department recorded some of its employees’ phone calls illegally.

“It is indeed a violation of both state and federal wire-tapping statutes,” he said. “Criminal prosecutions could occur, and the city is opened up to civil liability, as the law is clear – either the sender or the receiver has to know the phone call is being monitored/recorded.”

7. Northwoods Inn gone,
replaced by 'adult' nightclub

LittletonGazette.com has confirmed that North Woods Inn closed for good last Sunday and reopened as Scarlet Ranch, an "adult lifestyle" nightclub, on Friday. (Editor’s Note: If you Google "Scarlet Ranch," be warned - the Web site is not safe for work.)

“We are closing because of lack of business,” writes owner Pat Stahl in an e-mail. “I did not want to go out broke. We were in business 50 years. I am fine with the situation. I am 75, and my children don't want it, and my health is not good.”

6. Chief Coogan responds to
wiretapping allegations

Last Monday, an anonymous poster on LittletonGazette.com’s “Your Thoughts” page alleged that the department was illegally recording private conversations. While Chief Heather Coogan acknowledges that phones in the new Littleton Police Department facility were being recorded prior to notifying employees, she says nobody but two employees in the Information Services Department had access to the recordings prior to training sessions last Tuesday and Wednesday.

5. LPD recording system shut
off; reorganization under way

The Littleton Police Department indefinitely shut down its recording system on August 15 on the advice of the district attorney’s investigator, according to Kelli Narde, the city’s director of communications.

The system was installed on May 18 as part of upgrades to the police facility. It was intended to aid investigations, but employees were not notified until July that their phone conversations were being recorded. Last week, the city issued a press release saying evidence had surfaced that one employee might have listened to another’s conversations. That person, whom city officials decline to identify, has been placed on leave while the district attorney’s office investigates whether any eavesdropping or wiretapping laws were broken.

4. Evidence to the contrary

Responding to questions about what changes had occurred since a 2006 study of the department, Littleton Police Chief Heather Coogan said recently that her commanders had done nothing wrong. However, evidence to the contrary has since surfaced.

The independent study recommended eliminating one of the three commander positions - the rank below chief - but all three remain in place.

3. Council fires city attorney

City council tonight abruptly fired City Attorney Suzanne Staiert following a 90-minute executive session designated for receiving legal advice.

The only explanation offered was the following statement read by Mayor Pro Tem Debbie Brinkman:

“Over the last several weeks, the council has been working with the city attorney to address performance issues and her future role with the city. Through this process, council’s collective loss of confidence in the city attorney and her judgment has been reinforced. Accordingly, I hereby move that the council terminate the employment of the city attorney, effective today, September 20, 2011.”

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

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.

1. City Attorney fired after filing .
EEOC complaint against judge

City council fired City Attorney Suzanne Staiert on the same day she filed a sexual-harrassment complaint against Municipal Judge James Anderson with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. The complaint also alleged council retaliated against Staiert by hiring an attorney to investigate her after she reported the unwanted behavior to the city’s human-resources department.

According to city documents and Mayor Doug Clark’s handwritten notes, Staiert reported that Anderson gave her a gift certificate for a one-hour massage during the holidays and a necklace on Jan. 10, her birthday.

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