Denver whistleblower put on administrative leave after speaking out about deputy punching inmate in wheelchair

Problem Solvers

DENVER (KDVR) — An internal affairs investigator for Denver’s Public Integrity Division is now under investigation herself. Brittany Iriart was placed on administrative leave Tuesday after the Department of Public Safety accused her of possibly breaking her confidentiality agreement with the city.

The move comes after Iriart acknowledged tipping off the Problem Solvers to a story FOX31 broke last week involving a Denver Sheriff deputy cleared of wrong-doing, despite video evidence of him punching a handcuffed inmate in a wheelchair.

“I’d say it was obvious to anybody that watched the video,“ said Iriart, before adding, “I’d say all you need is two eyes.”

 Yet the Department of Public Safety overruled Iriart’s findings that Deputy Jason Gentempo not only punched the inmate but lied about it during his internal affairs investigation.

His video-taped interview with Iriart was obtained by the Problem Solvers through a records request. In it, Gentempo can be seen with his attorney reviewing the footage.

Gentempo: “It was not a strike, I did not hit him.”

Iriart: “How do you say that’s not a strike?”

Gentempo: “Because I didn’t hit him, I did not hit his face. I did not injure him whatsoever.”

The video evidence appears to contradict Gentempo. However, Mary Dulacki, the director of the Department of Public Safety, told the Problem Solvers last week, “I do not have the evidence that the deputy punched the inmate.”

Dulacki, along with the Denver sheriff and City Attorney’s Office decided not to sustain any policy violations against Gentempo despite the objections of both Iriart and Denver’s Independent Monitor, who felt Gentempo should be terminated for lying during an internal affairs investigation.

Gentempo was cleared on April 20, 2020 — some 13 months after the punching incident. On May 11, Iriart sent Investigative Reporter Rob Low an anonymous email suggesting he make a records request for the Gentempo case which led to a FOX31 story on June 3 exposing Gentempo’s exoneration.

 “The public has the right to know and the public has the right to know what internal investigations have revealed,” said Iriart.

But on June 9, the Department of Public Safety placed Iriart on administrative leave, saying she violated a confidentiality agreement that reads in part, she is “prohibited from divulging any information derived from any matter under investigation or review.”

In a statement emailed to FOX31, Murphy Robinson, the executive director of the Department of Public Safety, said, “Sharing confidential information learned during an investigation in any manner, including via social media, is not only inappropriate, but against the confidentiality agreement she signed in the scope of her position.”

The social media post Robinson refers to was something Iriart posted after the FOX31 story aired and didn’t reveal anything confidential. It was a comment on the June 3 story that read, “And what do you think of Mary Dulacki’s public announcement that it wasn’t a strike? She’s a big shot in the Department of Safety.”

Iriart’s attorney Laura Wolf told FOX31 her client didn’t share confidential information that was under investigation. She waited until the investigation was over to tell the Problem Solvers about a public record that was available to anyone who asked for it.

“Denver is attacking the messenger instead of their own internal problems,” said Wolf.

She said Denver’s interpretation of its confidentiality agreement is an assault on the First Amendment.

“If we allow Denver to call anything and everything confidential and essentially just say when they cover up the truth that in and of itself is confidential and should anyone speak out, they will see the wrath of Denver come at them, then we are living in a society where we cannot trust our government. We cannot trust our officials and right now, especially given the current climate, I think we can see just how scary that is,” said Wolf.

The day after Iriart was placed on leave, she testified in front of a state House committee discussing a police reform bill.  Iriart told lawmakers, “I’ve seen that more and more officers’ misconduct is being covered up.” 

In addition, Iriart told lawmakers conclusions of misconduct reached by the Conduct Review Office after the completion of her investigations were being changed.

“Decisions that were previously made as far as discipline goes for Denver Sheriff Department employees that have engaged in misconduct have been reversed at the end. It was initially sustained, those sustained were reversed and those reports were changed to fit those findings,” she said.

Iriart told FOX31 this was especially true for certain deputies.

“There’s a system in place, the haves and have-nots. The people that are liked and the people that aren’t. You definitely see the favoritism play out in these cases,” she said.

In its statement to FOX31, the Department of Public Safety wrote that on the day Iriart was placed on leave, “Ms. Iriart is alleged to have made verbal threats to her manager including statements that ‘she was just getting started’ and ‘I’m more dangerous as a former employee than a current one’ and is alleged to have promised retribution against a staff member in the Public Safety department.

Iriart denies threatening any coworkers and said she only expressed concerns about the integrity of the discipline process at the Department of Public Safety.

“The Public Integrity Division was actually created to be an independent process and it’s broken because public officials are still having an impact on those outcomes and very much to the detriment of the public,” said Iriart.

Iriart said she decided to testify to the House Appropriations Committee and to out herself as a whistleblower because of the recent protests nationwide over the death of George Floyd.

“It actually empowered me to come forward because what I’m going through is scary,” she said.

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