Aurora lawmaker accused of city charter violation, faces censure vote after talk-radio claims against police chief

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Danielle Jurinsky is sworn in to sit on the Aurora City Council Dec. 6, 2021 at the Aurora Municipal Center.
Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

AURORA | An Aurora lawmaker is calling for the censure of fellow Councilmember Danielle Jurisnky after she made a host of allegations during a Jan. 27 talk-radio interview and demanded the city’s police chief and deputy chief step down.

Councilmember Juan Marcano said that, by publicly telling the two to resign, Jurinsky violated a section of the city’s charter that prohibits councilors from meddling in the appointment of employees who fall under the authority of the city manager.

Marcano has started official procedures regarding the alleged charter violation, which, according to the charter, will result in a public hearing and consideration for censure.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE JAN. 27 STEFFAN TUBBS TALK RADIO SHOW

When asked by KNUS host Steffan Tubbs during his afternoon talk show how the city could fix the problem of officer shortages and turnover within the Aurora Police Department, Jurinsky said, “We remove the chief immediately, and with her takes out the trash of the deputy chief of police, Darin Parker.”

She went on to talk about a lunch meeting with police chief Vanessa Wilson where she encouraged Wilson to remove Parker.

“I said, ‘Even a bigger problem than you, chief, may be your appointed deputy police chief,’” Jurinsky told Tubbs. “‘He may be the bigger problem. What do you think about, as a show of faith, you know, that you mean business, and you want to change, and you want to stop losing all of these officers on your watch, why don’t we reappoint someone else and try to start fresh?’”

Jurinsky said Wilson considered her suggestion but did not act on it. Chris Amsler, executive officer to chief Wilson, disputed Jurinsky’s account of the meeting in a statement Feb. 1.

“They both share a desire to improve morale and retention at the police department,” he wrote of Jurinsky and the chief. “However, (Wilson) takes direction on employment matters from city management in accordance with the city charter. Chief Wilson did not consider removing Deputy Chief Parker from his position.”

Telling Tubbs’ listeners, “You are not safe in Aurora,” Jurinsky also accused Wilson and Parker of mistreating officers and turning a blind eye to misconduct, referring to Wilson as “trash.”

She described an incident in which she said an APD lieutenant was promoted to the role of interim division chief shortly after crashing a city vehicle while drunk, and said another officer “drank himself to death” after Wilson made comments publicly about his personal life and marriage.

“She’s trash,” Jurinsky said. “Chief Vanessa Wilson is trash.”

The council member later identified the former lieutenant as Martin Garland and the officer as Javen Harper.

Mayor Mike Coffman pushed back against Jurinsky’s comments in a statement released Jan. 28.

“While it is true that the crime rate has increased in parts of our city, the blanket assertion that Aurora is an unsafe community is just not true,” he said. “Like other major U.S. and Colorado cities, there has been an unfortunate increase in crime. It is OK for us to acknowledge this without creating an unnecessary sense of fear throughout our community.”

He acknowledged the staff shortages and other challenges facing the police department, though Coffman said officers in specialized units were being reallocated to patrol to keep up with calls for service when necessary, which Jurinsky also mentioned.

“Addressing crime and police retention requires a holistic approach with both short- and long-term actions,” he wrote. “Regardless of any differences, as elected officials, we owe it to our community to work in a professional manner with our city staff to serve our residents, business owners, community leaders, and other stakeholders to find real and sustainable solutions for Aurora.”

Regarding Garland — who retired in lieu of termination in December after telling internal affairs investigators he drank two to four beers, got behind the wheel of an unmarked police car and crashed it into an unknown vehicle or object — Amsler said the former lieutenant “never received a formal promotion” after the incident, which happened in October.

“It is common practice in the police department for employees in lower ranks to serve in an acting role when their immediate supervisor or manager is away for an extended period of time,” he wrote. “An employee serving in an acting role is a point of contact for that branch of the organization and is not authorized to make policy or personnel decisions.”

Details about Harper’s marriage and abuse of alcohol were made public in internal affairs documents, after he was fired in 2020 for showing up to work intoxicated. According to an obituary on the website of a Strasburg funeral home, Harper died in June 2021 of natural causes.

When asked what information about Harper’s personal life was shared by the chief, Jurinsky said she was referring to the fact that the department had released the internal affairs documents, which Amsler noted are public record.

“It has never been the intention or desire of Chief Wilson’s administration to embarrass anyone,” Amsler wrote in another part of his email. “As Chief Wilson has stated since she was named chief and will restate on any matter regarding past terminations, being transparent regarding issues of officer misconduct is paramount for rebuilding trust and legitimacy with our community.”

On Jan. 28, Marcano insisted that Jurinsky’s public call for Wilson and Parker to be removed violated the charter’s requirement that council members generally deal with the hiring and firing of employees through the city manager, currently Jim Twombly.

“He’s the only person we can speak to having to do with staff issues,” Marcano said. “That basically is a direct violation of our city charter.”

Aurora functions as a council-manager government. The city council makes policy and appoints the city manager, who is the chief executive and top supervisor of all employees, including the chief of police.

Jurinsky said her statements did not run afoul of the charter, and said she had not called on Twombly to dismiss Wilson and Parker.

“I did not direct anything,” she said. “Juan Marcano can do whatever he wants. … I’m not concerned about this. I knew it was only a matter of time before we came head to head.”

Section 3-10 of Article III of Aurora’s charter states:

Neither the council nor any of its committees or members shall direct or request the appointment of any person to, or his removal from, employment by the city manager, or in any manner take part in the appointment or removal of employees in the administrative service of the city, except as otherwise provided in this Charter.

The council and its members shall deal with that portion of the administrative service for which the city manager is responsible solely through the manager, and neither the council nor any member thereof shall give orders to any employee of the city either publicly or privately.

Any violation of the provisions of this section by a member of the council shall constitute misconduct and shall be punishable in such manner as may be in the discretion of the other members of the council.

Marcano also accused her of “verging on defamation of character” and violating a section of the council’s rules of order and procedure, which state, “When interacting with City employees or members of the general public, individual Council Members shall conduct themselves in a professional manner at all times.”

According to council rules, a council member may be censured for violating those rules, the charter or city code after a public hearing.

City spokesman Ryan Luby forwarded a copy of the letter sent by Marcano on Jan. 28 that initiated the censure process. Two-thirds of the council would have to vote to affirm that the violation took place before Jurinsky could be formally censured and disciplined.

When asked whether he was concerned about establishing a supermajority in favor of the censure, given the council’s recent conservative shift, Marcano said he had considered his situation, but that he would move forward regardless.

“It is definitely something I have thought about, but I hope they would put the city charter above politics,” he said.

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Jeff Brown
Jeff Brown
7 months ago

This may be one of times I’ll side with CM Marcano on principle.

It’s unfortunate though that he wants to expend staff time on a formal censure. Each new cm should be awarded one screw-up and this certainly would be hers.

CM Marcano – The city as you know regularly struggles and fails in delivering basic services— like protecting homebuyers from shoddy construction. Might I suggest moderation on tasking staff with such theatrical events.

Again, I fully agree it was a serious mistake. But a formal censure of a very new CM seems heavy-handed and wasteful.

CM Jurinsky- No one is impressed with your theatrics either.

Tamera
Tamera
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Brown

I do not agree everyone should get one screw up, if this was the case then everyone could go do ANYTHING they wanted one time. She NEEDS to be censured!!! These problems were here before Chief Vanessa Wilson got here. There has been issues in Aurora PD for many years. Many officers left due to better pay and benefits at other forces. Maybe it is time for Aurora PD to pay better wages and maybe be able to get new recruits in.

DICK MOORE
DICK MOORE
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Brown

Well Jeff, I for one, am very “impressed with her theatrics”.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
7 months ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

Although given the stage, I’m never surprised anymore.

Doug
Doug
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Brown

Absolutely not. She campaigned that she was ready to lead. She’s obviously not. She needs to be held accountable. But just like our political SCOTUS I can’t see the conservatives actually acknowledging that one of their own might be incompetent.

Susan Carr
Susan Carr
7 months ago

Jurinsky should get a raise.

Susan
Susan
7 months ago

We expect council members to be professional, responsible and respectful to all community leaders and residents. Jurinsky needs to be censured and disciplined. She needs to go!

Dale G Nichols
Dale G Nichols
7 months ago

Has Jurinsky even read the charter? It seems doubtful.

Dean
7 months ago

https://sentinelcolorado.com/news/metro/aurora-city-council-members-spar-over-coombs-facebook-post-police-hazard-pay/

This reveals the hypocrite CM Juan Marcano is. Marcano was more than willing to hide in the weeds, nowhere to be found. On June 22,2020 during the most harmful outburst from CM Combs and her outrageous, disrespectful conduct toward the police department, and officers specifically.

This city hall dust-up is bigger than a simple censure. Most anyone watching can see the foolish socialist policies Marcano brings to the table and thus bring into the city, are being shot down. It’s clear Marcano gets it, he is not a complete idiot. So, this is a sniper shot aimed at the bigger picture. In reality, he could care less about the chief’s firing or the cops, he’s a major player in defunding the police and seems to enjoy the drama of chaos, but it has backfired and it’s starting to stick.
As said before “Jurinsky should get a raise”

She is not a perfectly pedicured politician- she is showing us she is a leader.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The commenter referred readers to an off-site news story The Sentinel cannot warrantee. The story the commenter refers to is included in The Sentinel story from that event.

Dean
7 months ago
Reply to  Dean

1 second ago
Awaiting for approval
https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/aurora-councilmember-faces-backlash-for-post-says-it-was-meant-to-reflect-solidarity-with-black-lives-matter

This is interesting. The Sentinel decides for some reason to edit my above comment and instead insert into my comment their own link, back to their piece. For anyone wanting unbiased, journalism this paper shows how unethical Perry is willing to stoop. Why in the hell would the editor, someone that demands transparency pull this crap?

Jeff Brown
Jeff Brown
7 months ago
Reply to  Dean

True leaders respect the chain of command and the smart ones study the art of advanced negotiations where emotions are dialed down by a spirit of mutual respect and partnership in finding mutually acceptable solutions. It’s truly sad when this council refuses to practice this.

Unlike many of posters here I’ve found many of the people advocating for socialist reforms, are of genuine heart but lean in knowledge and experience when it comes to city’s finances and economy. Instead of belittling them over ideology, why not have a discussion about the practical limitations of their proposals? Do people want actual solutions in the public interest or simply to rant for their team? Note that I’m approaching this as a independent centrist.

Sharon Van Roekel
7 months ago

I voted for Jurinsky for just this reason, somebody needs to stand up to the socialists in our government. I am really sick of what is going on.

Don
Don
7 months ago

Thank you Sharon….I agree 100%. Councilwoman Jurinsky…..you go girl. Step up and speak your mind, which most likely is “our” mind as well. That’s why we voted for you. These liberals hate strong, dedicated lovers of our city and our state and our country. Censured means nothing!

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
7 months ago

When you find a socialist, I agree. Until then, behave.

Sharon Van Roekel
7 months ago

Didn’t like first post? I didn’t figure you would.

john wilson
john wilson
7 months ago

She is correct. Also include the Division chiefs Juul and Brown, they are a big part of the problem.

Last edited 7 months ago by john wilson
Dean
7 months ago

It’s now become increasingly clear this papers editor wants to censure comments, that they politicly disagree with. Is CM Juan Marcano on the staff now or WTF?

Publius
Publius
7 months ago

I thought there were a few city officials who are directly appointed by city council and who are not in the “administrative service” of the city, those being the city manager, the city attorney, and the police and fire chiefs. I thought council gets to direct those officials. To me it looks like the charter is saying city council members should not direct or even bully the cop on the street, the park ranger, or the librarian, but the chief of police seems in a different category. I am not certain about the deputy chief of police as he is not appointed by council but promoted and appointed by the chief.

In the end it seems that council member Marcano is providing exactly what council member Jurinsky wants, attention to her statements.

Kudos to chief Wilson for having met with her detractor. Kudos also to chief Wilson for not having buckled under to her detractor and making a deal on the employment and career of the deputy chief to appease one council member and to save the chief’s career by doing so. Imagine, one council member trying to impose her preference through a side deal with the chief, a deal cutting the rest of the council out of the decisional loop. It seems to me chief Wilson is a person of integrity.

Last edited 7 months ago by Publius
Don Black
Don Black
7 months ago
Reply to  Publius

The reason we have bad politicians and bad politician chiefs is that people judge from the image that sociopaths project. Throughout history, we are cursed by man’s silly “I like so-in-so”. Throughout my career, I heard citizens say they liked the Chief. Meanwhile, we in the department got to see his real side and his complete indifference to the public safety. Chiefs would slip in front of us because they knew we couldn’t tell the public about them. There is a reason that the officers voted no confidence in the chief. There is a reason I wrote a letter to the Sentinel before Chief Wilson was selected. In that letter, I asked that they not give us another smooth talking worthless politician as a chief. I included Chief Wilson in that category. A bad officer causes a great deal of grief. A bad Chief or a bad prosecutor causes far more. The chiefs are never held accountable for the poor training, poor supervision, and failure to correct problems. In many cases, they deliberately put the City and the public in jeopardy. Crowd control is a classic example. They cancel training, make poor decisions in tactics, give untrained and unsupervised officers weapons that shoot projectiles. They cost the City millions of dollars and are never held accountable.There is so much the public does not know.

Publius
Publius
7 months ago
Reply to  Don Black

Thank you for sharing the perspective you gained through years of service. That is something I sorely lack. I am sure the discussion you raise would be valuable, however the present discussion is not on chief Wilson’s competence, but rather is whether the council member can, under the city charter, direct the chief to make assignment or appointments unilaterally, without consultation with other council members, and in a publicly derogatory manner while circumventing the city manager. Did the council member go a bridge or two, too far, not whether there was some motivation or provocation to want to cross those bridges.

Don Black
Don Black
7 months ago
Reply to  Publius

I suppose that you are correct that the discussion is about the authority of a council member. I do believe the facts behind it are relevant. By the way, giving kudos to the chief for meeting with her detractor, Jurinsky, is, in my mind a little naive. A politician, like Chief Wilson, must always appear to be open. That is especially true when interacting with someone with power. She cannot afford to show her real character. Politicians are chameleons. Machiavelli said “First, you must appear to be religious”. After watching our chiefs put on phony shows of sincerity for years, I am not at all surprised when they appear conscientious and caring. You should understand that that is why police officers usual have little respect for their chiefs. You should understand that the main theme in police journals for years has been the lack of leadership. The problems caused by that lack of leadership are behind almost every problem in law enforcement. It is human nature. We are not doing any better on a national level. I don’t care which of the parties you look at.

Publius
Publius
7 months ago
Reply to  Don Black

I agree with much you have said here. I note also that I give deference to your personal experience, to your expertise derived from a long and distinguished career. Right about now is when lots of posters dismiss the nicety they just wrote and after a large “but” go on to try to refute the point. Not me. No “buts”. I give weight to what you have written and am considering it.

DICK MOORE
DICK MOORE
7 months ago

Thank you Danielle. This is why we voted you in and no one with solid intelligence listens to Marcano. I have been reading lately in many places that Aurora is one of the least safe areas in Colorado and serious crime in Ward I and II combined has roughly 50% of the total major crime in the Metro area.

Suggestions for Council to make a better and safer area:

Fire the Police Chief and Jim Twomby.

Begin a movement to eliminate, through the voters, the City Charter items listed in this article. The Socialists will use this too much to waste time of our employees and take it out of context for their needs.

Stand up to the outspoken Socialists on Council. Be patient we, the people, will vote them out or they will resign because they didn’t get their way. Well, probably not in Ward I and II, the smallest and most crime ridden Wards.

Begin to make the APD rank and file feel wanted so they can do their job properly again.

Move the homeless out of our City. I believe Denver is beginning to get tough on them. If they do, they will not go to Lakewood, they will come to Aurora. My guess is that the homeless know where law enforcement is the weakest and that is where they will go.

Again, thank you Danielle. Be outspoken and represent me.

sugar
7 months ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

so you are OK with her calling people trash? Says lot about you.

Mr Wonderful
Mr Wonderful
7 months ago

Let’s get back to the heart of the matter. I feel unsafe! I want to be secure in my home that I pay taxes for! Anyone who isn’t aware of the rampant crime in Aurora should just join the next door app and read the daily complaints about lack of services.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
7 months ago
Reply to  Mr Wonderful

I don’t feel safe anywhere in this Country. We are so naive if we believe the problems we reference exist only here. We are nearing the end.

cammy1938
7 months ago

if councilmember jurinsky feels aurora isnt safe, she can always leave the city. that might solve her problem.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
7 months ago

Well, like I always say, give someone a microphone and all of a sudden, she knows everything. Sounds like a typical right-wing bully to me, and not a very intelligent one, at that. But I consider her remarks irresponsible and they in no way advance the safety of us, the citizens. No, we are not safe in Aurora, or in most places in America, and that is thanks to the number of people with GUNS, which her side has caused to be the case. And getting people with GUNS worked up never has a good ending.

Oh, never mind. . .

GeneD
7 months ago

Where are the data? Until the real reasons for officer turnover are identified, everything is conjecture. This includes blaming command staff and throwing retention bonuses at officers (and probably support staff as well).

The Council member seems skilled, in the ReTrumplicants/Broebert way, of throwing red meat to her so-easy-to-outrage base. The aim seems to be to stir up negative emotions and create division. By the way, what do you think the impact of her words are on APD morale and cohesiveness? She is not a problem solver, just another attention seeker. The stars and stripes dress at her swearing-in should’ve been a clue.

Find out why cops are leaving – there will be multiple reasons – and take a systemic approach to resolving the problems. Less emotion and more logic, please.