by Irvin Muchnick
Dennis Goodwin, Colorado’s child protection ombudsman, today told us he decided not to seek from the Arvada police the 1995 report on George Gibney, which the department had summarized for us but not released in its original form. (The full background is in last Wednesday’s post.)
While I make a regular practice of grilling public officials over transparency, in this case I can’t really quarrel with Goodwin’s decision, which he explained in an email:
“After much consideration and discussion, it is our opinion that using the Ombudsman statutory authority to obtain this record and then release a statement regarding its content is prohibited. Even for the limited purpose you have proposed, it is still prohibited by federal statute, state statute and the Child Protection rules approved in February of 2015. Over my career, I have worked with the Arvada Police for 34 years and have found them to be a very professional and ethical department.”
This leaves us with a tough road to hoe – convincing a Colorado court that a customarily sealed document should be released because of an overriding public interest – and today I am doubtful that Concussion Inc. will pursue the litigation option. The Arvada police did indeed conduct themselves professionally in telling us, in broad terms and in some specific ones, what was in the report. Thoroughness compelled us to want to inspect the document ourselves, or to get someone with statutory authority, along with a measure of independence, to give us second-hand reassurance. However, the promised returns seem marginal.
What would be additionally helpful – though neither the Arvada nor nearby Wheat Ridge police are going in this direction, apparently – would be for them to reach out to the now-retired police officers who handled the local Gibney investigations at the time: Sergeant Jo Ann Rzeppa in Arvada and Detective Lila Cohen in Wheat Ridge. Of the two, Cohen is probably the more important, since the Wheat Ridge police have said there was, along with Cohen’s report from 2000 (which we received and published), one from two years earlier that got destroyed when old records were cleaned out.
Meanwhile, our more important federal Freedom of Information Act request, to the Department of Homeland Security for Gibney’s visa and green card files, remains on track, according to an official at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Within the next month,we should either have acquired those records or face a clear opportunity to argue in federal court that the public interest, in both the U.S. and Ireland, demands their release.
THE SERIES SO FAR: