DENVER — Critics contend the internal investigation into Department of Corrections executive director Rick Raemisch was a conflict of interest from the beginning.
It was earlier reported that Raemisch used a state vehicle to go hunting.
Since then, several current and retired Department of Corrections employees have spoken out.
Most found it outrageous that the governor’s office allowed the investigation to be conducted by DOC Inspector General Jay Kirby, who was hired by Raemisch and can be fired by Raemisch.
While many DOC employees wanted to remain anonymous, Ed Herndon was willing to go on the record.
“It’s unethical,” said Herndon, who recently retired as an investigator for the DOC’s inspector general.
He spent 14 years investigating crimes at the Buena Vista Correction Facility and had no doubt what would have happened to him if he had used a state vehicle for personal reasons.
“My immediate thought was, had I done that I would have been fired before the ink was dry I would have been fired,” Herndon said.
Raemisch received a verbal warning and Herndon believes it’s because his subordinate conducted the investigation.
“If you are investigating your boss, it would give you a reason to make it as non-serious as you could,” Herndon said.
Rae Timme retired from the Department of Corrections in 2014 after a 25-year career that included serving as a prison warden at the Fremont and Colorado Territorial correction facilities.
When asked if she thought it was wrong for a subordinate to investigate his own boss, Timme replied, “Absolutely.”
Timme said when she was a warden, she had a state vehicle and knew what the rules were.
“I know my supervisors at the time had really strong words for us that it was only to be used for state business,” she said.
Gary Valko, an investigator for the DOC inspector general’s office, was fired in November, partly for using his state vehicle off-duty when he was caught on camera going through the drive-thru of a fast food restaurant in Parker.
The termination letter for Valko states, “Your actions in driving your state vehicle to a Jack in the Box restaurant while off duty is a violation of CDOC (Colorado Department of Corrections) policy.”
In contrast, the discipline letter to Raemisch closed by recommending “a meeting be scheduled with Mr. Raemisch to review this information and clarify the parameters of vehicle use.”
“I can tell you I believe this investigation was done correctly,” said Jacki Cooper Melmed, the chief legal counsel for Gov. John Hickenlooper.
It was Melmed’s decision to appoint Kirby to investigate his boss after Kirby brought an anonymous complaint he received to the governor’s office.
“I don’t believe I was putting (Kirby) in an awkward position. I was asking him to do his job,” Melmed said.
In the four-page complaint against Raemisch, the whistleblower writes, “I am also requesting that this investigation be carried out by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, rather than the DOC Inspector General’s Office. An investigation of this nature should be unbiased, and your office is much too close and affected by the Executive Staff to remain unbiased.”
When Melmed was pressed on the ethics of having a subordinate investigate his boss, she responded, “It’s not that I don’t understand what you’re saying, but you have to take into account the nature of the allegations. … I think many people in my position would have done it this way.”
Raemisch declined a request to be interview. A spokesman insisted Raemisch did not misuse his state vehicle and had no role in appointing his subordinate to investigate him.