Summit County sheriff’s race: Woodman vows to investigate FitzSimons if elected
November 1, 2018
As Election Day inches ever closer, rumors continue to swirl in a contentious race for Summit County Sheriff.
In a letter recently published by the Summit County Republican Committee, candidate Derek Woodman questioned Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons' honesty during his hiring in 2006, and said he intends to have FitzSimons investigated if elected.
"When I am elected sheriff, I will request the Colorado Bureau of Investigation determine if Jaime FitzSimons … lied or omitted information on his application for the Summit County Sheriff's Office," wrote Woodman. "If the CBI determines that he was truthful on his employment application, he should be exonerated and his name should be cleared. If the investigation determines that he did lie, he will be held accountable…"
Woodman, a Republican, is suggesting that Democratic incumbent FitzSimons made false statements on his application to work at the Summit County Sheriff's Office, claiming that he'd never been fired from a previous law enforcement agency. While it's true that FitzSimons was fired by the Los Angeles Police Department, he was also reinstated. FitzSimons vehemently denies that he lied on his application, and claims that he fully disclosed the details of his termination and reinstatement to former Sheriff John Minor prior to his hiring.
The Summit Daily News looked into Woodman's allegation. What we discovered was that FitzSimons' application apparently no longer exists, that Minor talked extensively with FitzSimons about his LAPD background prior to hiring him and, that Woodman himself advocated to hire FitzSimons back in 2006 as the highest-paid deputy in the office.
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Woodman's comments in the letter stem from an incident during FitzSimons' time with the LAPD, where he served from 1990-2005. In 1998, one of FitzSimons' coworkers, Nadine Arango, committed suicide after revealing an extramarital affair with FitzSimons. While FitzSimons was not found liable for the incident, he was later terminated and then reinstated following a lawsuit against the LAPD. According to Woodman, who was heavily involved in FitzSimons' hiring process, he never would have been hired had he disclosed his termination on his application.
The Summit Daily News reached out to both the Summit County Sheriff's Office and the county's human resources department to examine FitzSimons' personnel record and see if there was any truth to the accusation.
Upon reviewing the files —accompanied by Summit County Attorney Jeffrey Huntley — it appears that the application no longer exists.
While this may seem strange, Summit County human resources director Molly Boyd said that it's not unheard of, especially given the evolution of record-keeping procedures over the years.
"It is possible," said Boyd. "Record-keeping over the years has changed, and it didn't used to have the same standards. … I can't speak to practices 13 or 14 years ago."
Boyd noted that the department wouldn't have ever removed the application from the file, and that the chances that someone else could have removed it are essentially zero.
"An employee has the right to see their employee file," said Boyd. "But if they want to see their personnel file, a human resources representative has to sit with the file because it's a legal document."
In other words, the human resources department keeps strict tabs on who gets to access which files, and even employees looking over their own files are constantly supervised by HR representatives to make sure nothing is added or taken out. The most likely scenario then is that FitzSimons' application was never added to his personnel file for some reason.
John Minor, a Republican who served as sheriff from 2004-2016, said that the office was refining their record-keeping process around that time, but otherwise couldn't speak to any reason why the application would be missing.
When asked about the hiring process, Minor said that FitzSimons was extremely upfront about the Arango incident, but couldn't recall specifically whether or not he disclosed his termination or reinstatement.
"Certain things stand out in your mind," said Minor. "Obviously the situation with Nadine, he was honest with that. It's not often you have an applicant dump their bucket like that and say, 'Look, I did this.' … Do I know what's on his employment application, what he admitted to or not? I can't recall that."
But FitzSimons' eventual hiring was big news around the sheriff's office. Minor called the process "a high-level discussion" featuring himself, Woodman and other ranking members of the office. He even noted that Woodman was the one who led the effort to hire FitzSimons, and a record discovered in FitzSimons' personnel file reveals that Woodman pushed to hire FitzSimons at well above the entry-level salaries for new deputies due to his experience.
"I remember Derek convincing me we should give him a chance," said Minor. "It was unusual because I personally called two of his supervisors at the LAPD because I wanted to be sure."
It's also unclear how, if FitzSimons didn't disclose his termination and reinstatement, that information could have escaped the sheriff's office given the tedious hiring process. According to Minor, FitzSimons at minimum would have been required to fill out an application, come in for an interview, and take a polygraph test and a psychological exam. Additionally, Minor said he reached out directly to FitzSimons' supervisors at the LAPD, and a sergeant in the office at the time also spoke to members of the LAPD, returning a recommendation to hire FitzSimons.
"It's a question I don't have an answer for," said Woodman. "I don't know who did the background check on him. Most or all of that should have come out during the background. But often times a law enforcement agency, even with the release of information authorized by the potential employee, they're reluctant to release any disparaging information."
In his defense, FitzSimons said that he fully disclosed the information regarding his termination and reinstatement.
"At the time I accepted then Sheriff John Minor's offer of employment, I had fully disclosed the information from my LAPD employment," said FitzSimons.
FitzSimons also provided the Summit Daily News with an email exchange between Minor and Charlie FitzSimons — Jaime's brother and an outspoken Woodman supporter — from April 2008. In the email, which Minor confirmed was legitimate, Charlie sent a link to Minor regarding the Arango affair. Minor's response again reflects that the office, at the very least, was well informed of the incident.
Minor wrote to Charlie, "Your brother fully disclosed this prior to hiring on with us. I have no issues with this whatsoever, furthermore it appears the courts had no issues with this either. It was unfortunate but that's as far as it goes."
Fired or not Fired?
Regardless, Woodman believes FitzSimons' very presence at the office is proof he lied.
"My statement stands," said Woodman. "He would have had to answer 'yes' or 'no' on the application, and if he would have answered 'yes,' then clearly at that point the likelihood of him being hired is extremely remote because all of this would have been revealed."
But it's also unclear if that's true. Minor agreed that lying on an application would be means for automatic disqualification prior to being hired, or means to launch an internal affairs investigation if the individual had already been hired. But given that FitzSimons was terminated and later reinstated, things aren't so cut and dry.
"It's rare to hire someone who's been fired," said Minor. "But in this hypothetical, you'd have to look at the fact that there was a lawsuit and he was reinstated."
Keely Ambrose, assistant county attorney, also noted that the fact that FitzSimons was reinstated might essentially nullify his termination.
In Woodman's letter, he also notes that FitzSimons could face a "Brady Letter" if any impropriety is discovered, essentially a letter that gets sent to any defendant in a case where an officer serving as a witness has made false or misleading statements in the past. For his part, District Attorney Bruce Brown declined to comment on whether or not FitzSimons would be investigated, but said FitzSimons currently has no Brady letters on file.
"My pre-employment conversations and full disclosure started and continued with then undersheriff Derek Woodman, and were acceptable to John Minor who extended me an offer of employment that I accepted," said FitzSimons. "It is exceedingly disappointing that Derek Woodman has such a convenient, narrow recollection of the sequence of events leading up to an offer of employment from over 10 years ago."