FLORENCE, Colo. (KRDO) -- Accusations of defiance, claims of ethics and policy violations, and a mysterious handwritten note threatening to go to the District Attorney were found inside the personnel file of Florence's Chief of Police.
After months of demanding answers, 13 Investigates gained access to documents that raise questions about how Shane Prickett rose through the ranks.
In March, six of the Florence City Council members resigned en masse, leaving the city without council members. Some of the resigned members told 13 Investigates they were frustrated after their direction for the Florence Police Chief to call in the state to investigate missing taxpayer money wasn't followed.
"The City Council has no authority to remove the police chief because he works for the city manager. And we just felt so frustrated, so blocked by this," former Councilman Mike Vendetti said. "The police chief is one of the roots of the problem that Florence is now encountering."
13 Investigates first learned of a workplace conduct investigative report in Pickett's file in March 2022. The report from 2015 alleges that multiple officers expressed frustration that their complaints about him went ignored.
Our team submitted a public records request, but the City of Florence repeatedly denied access to the 2015 document, citing Colorado's exception in the public records request for items regarding sexual harassment.
13 Investigates began pressing the Florence Interim City Manager's for answers about Prickett's personnel file in March after the council resigned en masse. We were, however, met with roadblocks.
"I'm not going to get into personnel files. Those are, the expectation privacy of a personnel file is very high, I'm not going to discuss personnel files," Tom Piltingsrud said.
After nearly four months, two denials, and a legal conference with 13 Investigates, the City of Florence finally released a redacted version.
The document includes an investigative report written by Lt. Mike Ingle to then Florence Police Chief Mike DeLaurentis in 2015. While the City of Florence redacted the name of the officer in question, 13 Investigates reviewed and authenticated an unredacted version of the letter. We confirmed that the record is about workplace allegations against current police chief Shane Prickett, who was a lieutenant in the department at the time.
The 2015 letter says a female officer complained about Prickett's workplace conduct, including allegations that Prickett "continues to commit violations of policy, ethics and general common sense with no consequences whatsoever."
The officer told Lt. Ingle they were leaving the department because they couldn't tolerate Prickett's behavior and they were deeply disappointed in the police and city administration for "allowing this problem to continue."
"I thought we were all supposed to be held to a higher standard in this job, it's written in the policy!" the officer who complained to Lt. Ingle said. "How can a lieutenant of all things be allowed to do what [Shane] does?"
"Shane's file is one of the worst I have ever seen [regarding a currently employed officer,]" Lt. Ingle wrote in 2015.
Ingles's report also indicated that Prickett's alleged behavior was no secret.
Ingle wrote the complaining officer, “Makes a strong argument, mainly because her statements have merit- this entire department is witness to this- we would be key witnesses .... validating a lot of her claims.”
Pricket went on to be promoted to Florence Police Chief by former City Manager Mike Patterson in 2019.
Earlier this year, a Florence police officer who resigned in April told a third-party workplace investigator: "Chief is not the best person for the job. Chief got this job because he blackmailed his way into it. I can see the agency disbanded because of how Chief is doing things.”
The allegations of blackmail were noticeable because the 2015 letter includes a handwritten note in the margin next to a description of Prickett's behavior. While covered up in whiteout, the note appears to say "This is blackmail."
However, it's unclear whose handwriting it is or to who the note is directed, but it continues on page three of the document.
The city redacted the paragraph describing the conduct near the note, saying it pertained to allegations of sexual harassment.
The unredacted version reviewed by 13 Investigates, however, alleges multiple people who worked at the Florence Police Department heard Prickett say he had information about inappropriate text messages then-city manager Mike Patterson sent to a woman. Patterson would later be fired by the city council in 2021 for sexual harassment.
The sentence below the redacted paragraph about the texts says: "Shane is defiant about this and is quick to state if he needed to, he would use this information against the city."
13 Investigates pressed Prickett about the record multiple times in March, May, June, July, and August.
We also asked for a sit-down interview with him and the interim manager ahead of Florence's June 6 city council meeting. We reached out 10 days before the meeting and followed up, but neither answered.
So, 13 Investigates asked Prickett in person after the meeting.
During that encounter, he claimed to know nothing about what appeared to be a blackmail letter in his personnel file.
In July, after the City of Florence released the record to 13 Investigates, we went back to Prickett for the fifth time. Prickett told us he never blackmailed anyone and had only just seen the handwritten note once about a month before.
As for the rest of the workplace conduct complaint, he claimed he had never seen it but it was "quite upsetting" that it was in his file.
After 2015 and leading up to his 2019 promotion, it does not appear that there were any other disciplinary records in Prickett's personnel file.