by Irvin Muchnick
The Office of the Colorado Child Protection Ombudsman is considering a request by Concussion Inc. to ask the Arvada police to release to the ombudsman a 1995 report of a complaint of a sexual assault against George Gibney, a coach at the North Jeffco Swim Team whose past sexual abuse in his native Ireland is under renewed government scrutiny.
In a Tuesday email exchange, the ombudsman, Dennis Goodwin, told me, “I will consider your request.”
The contact began as a request to Goodwin to view the police report and elaborate on its contents. Goodwin said the Office of the Child Protection Ombudsman “is prohibited by state and federal confidentiality laws from releasing such records to you or to the public.”
However, I pointed out to Goodwin that Arvada’s police records custodian had noted Colorado law “does allow for release of a report of an alleged child abuse situation to persons and agencies listed in the statute.”
One of those authorized agencies, in the Colorado Revised Statutes, is “The child protection ombudsman program created in section 19-3.3-102, when conducting an investigation pursuant to article 3.3 of this title.”
I asked Goodwin if he would use his statutory authority to get access to the record, “for the limited purpose of being able to tell our readers and the public whether there are pertinent details, in your view, that were not reflected” in the summary of the report given to us by Arvada on February 27. The summary stated:
“In late October, 1995, the APD was notified by a citizen that Mr. Gibney was employed by the North Jeffco Parks and Recreation District, and that he had previously been accused of child abuse in Ireland. The APD confirmed that Mr. Gibney had been charged with child sexual abuse in Ireland, but that he was not convicted on any of the charges. During its investigation, the APD learned that Mr. Gibney was suspected of possibly pinching (or snapping the swimsuit of) a North Jeffco swimmer. The APD investigated this allegation, but was unable to establish that a crime had occurred. Shortly thereafter, the APD learned that Mr. Gibney was no longer employed by North Jeffco. The APD had no other involvement in this matter.”
Goodwin then responded that he would take the matter under advisement.
Concussion Inc. has obtained the full 2000 report on Gibney by the police in Wheat Ridge, another Denver suburb. We learned that there was at least one other Gibney report in Wheat Ridge, in 1998, which police say was destroyed in a routine purge of old records.
The nexus of the Gibney-in-Colorado scenario is information that might not be in any police report: whether the North Jeffco club was aware of the allegations against him in Ireland, whether USA Swimming was informed when Gibney was fired by North Jeffco (and why), and whether USA Swimming did anything at all to alert American swimmers and their families of the charged circumstances of Gibney’s presence in the U.S. (The organization didn’t begin publishing a banned list until 2010 and Gibney is not on it. He is presumed to be on USA Swimming’s secret “flagged” list.)
The Arvada police denied our public records request for a copy of their report. We are weighing a court challenge of that denial, but early legal research makes it clear that Colorado law is unusually restrictive in comparison with other states. For example, certain types of law enforcement files in Colorado are not even defined as public records. If we do appeal, we will cite an overriding public interest, both in this country and in Ireland, for full exposure of Gibney’s movements and activities since he entered the U.S. from Ireland, by way of Scotland, after an Irish court in 1994 – essentially citing statute of limitations ambiguities – dismissed his indictment on more than a dozen counts of child sexual abuse.
There is now a renewed effort by an Irish legislator, Irish journalists, and Gibney victims to get the justice minister to reopen the case. At the same time, I have a pending Freedom of Information Act request – supported by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California – for Gibney’s temporary visa and permanent resident alien green card files, to determine who sponsored his passage here. Gibney now lives in Florida.
In was against this background that we contacted ombudsman Goodwin. His office is a unique quasi-public agency – a non-profit, as its website states, created by the state legislature “to serve as an independent and neutral organization that investigates complaints and grievances about child protection services, seek and recommend system improvements, & serve as a resource.”
I wrote to Goodwin that his intervention could solve the problem of verifying the Arvada police description of their report’s contents, and would be a good use of the ombudsman platform – shedding further light on the secretive Gibney story and assisting the efforts of advocates on two continents.
CONCUSSION INC.’S SERIES SO FAR: