Former Colorado State Patrol leader gets payout weeks after state investigated his department

DENVER - The former head of the Colorado State Patrol was paid $90,000 after being asked to retire, but details of the payout aren’t being released by the state.

The CALL7 Investigators asked for a copy of the agreement between James Wolfinbarger and the state through an open records request. It shows the agreement was reached on January 11 and that both sides agreed not to talk about the early termination of Wolfinbarger’s contract or admit any wrongdoing.

Several sources close to the Colorado Department of Public safety told the CALL7 Investigators the state hired a third party company to conduct an investigation into the culture of the state patrol. The investigation began in September and ended in January of this year.

The investigative report and findings were not being released by the state patrol or the Colorado Department of Public Safety, but an unnamed source told CALL7 that the four-month long investigation eventually found no wrongdoing by Wolfinbarger or others in the state patrol.

Despite the findings, sources told CALL7 Investigators that the head of public safety and the Governor’s office felt there was need for change within the state patrol leadership and asked Wolfinbarger to retire.

Wolfinbarger sent an email to his staff in mid-January stating, ”After countless discussions with my wife and family, I have decided to retire from the Colorado State Patrol effective January 31, 2013. I am pursing new challenges and look forward to the next phase of my professional life.”

Wolfinbarger, who is 42, had nearly 20 years with the Colorado State Patrol and was named head of the department in February 2009.


--Complaints of discrimination--

In September, the CALL7 Investigators began looking into the culture of Wolfinbarger’s office, specifically concerning complaints about a hostile work environment for male employees who are gay.

We also found a motorist had filed a complaint about a trooper who used a gay slur to describe him during a traffic stop.

And in January, the state patrol settled a lawsuit with a family whose son was shot and killed accidently by a trooper.


--First discrimination complaint--

Last July, 7NEWS first reported on an administrative law judge’s critical 50-page ruling with the state personnel board highlights sexual-orientation discrimination practices in the CSP. The judge said there appeared to be a "homophobic" culture among troopers.

The judge's ruling concluded former trooper, Captain Brett Williams, was not rehired because of his sexual orientation.

Williams had left the patrol to take a new job, but decided to come back three months later. Williams claimed he was told by Wolfinbarger that he wouldn’t have to take a polygraph if he came back to the patrol, but after re-applying a polygraph was administered.

Willliams said his orientation came up during a polygraph test where he admitted to the polygraph examiner to having a sexual encounter with a male masseuse.

The judge's report said that if the examiner hadn’t asked that inappropriate question, the trooper's personal life would have remained private and he would have been reinstated.

William’s attorney, Keith Shandalow, told 7NEWS last year that taxpayers are now on the hook for the enormous tab from this discrimination case. That's because the CSP must pay for all attorney’s fees and must pay the gay trooper front pay for the rest of his working life. Front pay is the difference between what the trooper makes now and what he would have made had he been reinstated as a captain with the CSP.

The Colorado State Patrol is appealing the ruling in this case.


--Second discrimination complaint--

In August, another person came forward and said he was denied employment with the State Patrol because of his sexual orientation.

Cory Cutting, a former intern, filed a complaint with the State Personnel Board complaining he was denied employment at the State Patrol's Colorado Information Analysis Center.

Cutting claimed he was encouraged to apply for the same job he was doing as an intern, but when he took the required polygraph for employment, he was asked a question about an incident in Mexico.  

Cutting told CALL7 Investigators that the polygraph examiner asked if Cutting took a man back to his hotel room.

The case is still being reviewed by the State Personnel Board.


--$1 Million Dollar Lawsuit Settlement--

The Colorado State Patrol agreed in January to pay more than $1 million to the family of a man who was shot and killed when he refused to allow troopers into his home without a warrant.

Mark Silverstein, director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Colorado, said Monday the patrol has also agreed to set up training programs to prevent future tragedies.

According to a lawsuit, troopers Kirk Firko and Ivan Lawyer were investigating a traffic accident in 2010 when they knocked on the door of Jason Kemp, who was shot when he demanded to see a warrant. The two troopers were later fired. Charges against the two troopers were dismissed.


--Gay Slur Used By Trooper Against Motorist--

In July of last year, a motorist filed a complaint against a trooper who pulled him over near Montrose.

The motorist, who spoke with CALL7 Investigators, said he was put in the back of a patrol car after being pulled over for speeding.

The motorist, who doesn’t want to be named, said he saw the trooper’s computer screen with the words, “tagged another queer.”  

After questioning the trooper, the motorist said the trooper quickly closed the laptop and apologized.

The motorist, who isn’t gay, said he filed a complaint against the trooper. 

Wolfinbarger told CALL7 Investigators the trooper, whose name isn’t being released by the Colorado State Patrol, self-reported the incident and admitted he made a mistake.

The State Patrol wouldn’t reveal the internal investigation action taken against the trooper, but we are told he was disciplined. The state patrol declined to release the discipline the trooper faced. 

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