Denver paid employee on leave $212,000, and gave him a raise - Watchdog.org
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Denver paid employee on leave $212,000, and gave him a raise

By   /   February 11, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Photo Courtesy Denver youtube post

DELAYED DECISION: Denver city attorney Scott Martinez has had a high-paid employee on leave for more than a year, letting him collect a paycheck without working.

An assistant Denver city attorney has apparently been on administrative leave for more than year, collecting as much as $212,000 while staying at home and even receiving a favorable performance review and pay bump, a Watchdog.org investigation in cooperation with CBS Denver found.

City records show Stuart Shapiro, who was placed on leave in July 2014 while the city investigated “litigation misconduct,” received a “successful” rating in January 2015 and a pay increase for “merit,” according to records Watchdog.org obtained from the city’s human resources department.

Photo Courtesy Denver City Attorney's office

LONG LEAVE: Assistant City Attorney Stuart Shapiro has been paid more than $200,000 since July 2014, waiting for city officials to resolve his leave.

Shapiro’s salary increased from $139,300 to $142,922 in January 2015 after the “successful” rating, city records show. Before his suspension, Shapiro received an “outstanding” performance rating in January 2014 that had bumped his salary $6,380 to $139,300.

His neighbor, John Neumeier, said he sees Shapiro at home every day and questioned why the city would pay someone just to sit home for so long.

“Well it sounds like something is stuck,” he told CBS Denver investigative reporter Brian Maass. “Inefficient, tremendously inefficient.”

It’s unclear why city officials haven’t made a decision on Shapiro. Repeated requests for information have not clarified his status or whether he will return to work, but provide evidence that Shapiro is still a city employee — although he has not been assigned any work in more than a year.

A database of people on administrative leave obtained by Watchdog.org under state open records laws late last year doesn’t list Shapiro as on leave. But a database of city employees shows him working for the city attorney’s office.

CBS Denver obtained an email response from that office, saying Shapiro was not assigned and didn’t resolved any cases in 2015 and showed up at work no more than five times last year. Payroll records that Watchdog.org obtained Feb. 2 show he was paid every two weeks through Jan. 29, 2016.

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City Attorney Scott Martinez, who has repeatedly declined interviews with Watchdog.org on various topics, wrote that Shapiro’s situation was a personnel issue that he wouldn’t discuss. He issued a statement that said, “As a general matter, we resolve all City employment matters fairly and in conformance with applicable rules and laws as a matter of due process.”

He also declined an interview on the topic with CBS Denver, so Maass met him in a public location to discuss Shapiro’s status and the cost of the indecision to taxpayers.

“Isn’t a year and a half enough to figure this thing out?” Maass asked.

“I can’t talk about a specific personnel matter, but I can tell you we want to make sure everyone has due process and we’ll make sure that happens in this specific case and in general,” Martinez said.

‘A very serious situation’

The incident that led to Shapiro’s leave centers around his handling of the Jamal Hunter case. In 2014, the city paid $3.25 million to settle Hunter’s allegations that he was attacked by inmates with the knowledge and prompting of a sheriff’s deputies.

The Hunter case has been a major black eye for the city, exposing problems in the jail and with various staff members.

Court records allege Shapiro told Hunter’s attorneys that he had no documentation and nothing to do with the internal affairs police investigation into the deputies in late February 2014.

“I am not involved in the investigations nor am I privy to the internal workings of the investigations,” an email from Shapiro to Hunter’s attorney sent on Feb. 24, 2014, and filed in federal court shows.

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But two weeks earlier, Shapiro wrote the Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) officers, who were investigating Deputy Gaynel Rumer’s alleged involvement in facilitating the attack on Hunter, about what other inmates were telling plaintiff’s lawyers.

Inmate witness affidavits “are an attack on Denver, its law enforcement agencies and the Denver jails,” Shapiro wrote Feb. 7, 2014, in an email in court documents. “If allegations in the affidavits were true, it would be a very serious situation. The IAB investigation will be greatly important to Denver and its residents, and the public at large.”

After that email, on March 10, 2014, IAB investigators went to interview admitted gang member Amos Page, who provided Hunter’s attorneys an affidavit about the jail conditions and the attack on Hunter. Page told IAB officers that Rumer was drunk on the job, brought marijuana into the jail and viewed pornography on city computers, the transcript in federal files shows.

Hunter’s attorneys alleged the IAB officers tried to intimidate Page by saying he might be prosecuted for testifying in the federal lawsuit against the city, Rumer and another deputy.

Photo Courtesy Department of Corrections

WITNESS TAMPERING?: Attorneys allege police tried to silence Amos Page as a witness to an attack in the Denver Jail.

“(I)f you say this or more than this on the federal stand, you’re subjecting yourself to a criminal — a felony criminal charge for what happened to Jamal because that’s what that attorney came here to talk to you about,” an unidentified officer is quoted in a transcript of their interview with Page filed in federal court. “Now they decided not to file criminal charges at that time, but the statute of limitations hasn’t run yet. … And that affidavit is just the start of a slippery slope. Do you get that? Did you get that when they had you write that?”

Shapiro filed an intent to sue notice in January, alleging the city wrongfully suspended him as a scapegoat for the Hunter case, and he criticized the $3.25 million settlement, calling it a “misuse, misallocation, mismanagement and waste of city funds.”

His attorney, Nathan Chambers, declined to comment and said his client also would not comment.

The database of employees on administrative leave lists 17 city employees on paid leave with a total cost for their salaries of about $102,000 — less than half what the city paid Shapiro. Most have been on paid leave for less than two months with the longest on leave – whose salary is about $56,000 a year — for slightly more than half a year, records show.

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Arthur was formerly the bureau chief for Colorado Watchdog.