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.
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.