DENVER (CBS4) - Westminster Police have charged Tony Streno, the athletic director at Westminster High School, with false reporting for calling police and telling them his boss, Westminster High School’s principal, appeared to be driving drunk and nearly crashed into another car.
A police investigation indicates Westminster High Principal Pat Sanchez was not drunk and did not get behind the wheel and nearly collide with another vehicle.
“It wasn’t malicious and I was put in a position where I had to make a call,” Streno told CBS4 in a phone interview.
In a police report obtained by CBS4, Westminster police indicate the false reporting charge emanated from a party the evening of March 18. Westminster High School administrators, including principal Sanchez, had gone to Dave and Busters at 10667 Westminster Boulevard at 3:30 p.m. to socialize. Streno did not attend.
Streno told CBS4 he happened to be driving by Dave and Busters at about 7:15 p.m. when he thought he saw Sanchez emerge, appearing “very drunk,” get into his truck and nearly hit another vehicle in the parking lot. Streno called 911 and provided that narrative, giving a dispatcher Sanchez’s license plate number and adding that Sanchez had then gone back inside Dave and Busters.
At about 8:45 p.m., as Sanchez was leaving Dave and Busters for the evening, Westminster police were waiting for him. They told Sanchez they had received a report of him driving drunk and nearly careening into another vehicle. According to officers on the scene, “He was not intoxicated,” wrote police, “not intoxicated in any way.” Witnesses at the party told officers Sanchez never left the building during the party and that Sanchez never appeared drunk in any way, as Streno reported to police.
“This situation was very embarrassing,” wrote Sanchez. “It occurred in front of my staff and community members. The person who reported it was trying to damage my career.”
Sanchez told police he immediately suspected Streno of making the call, as Sanchez said he had told Streno around the beginning of March that Streno was being terminated after this school year was over for “performance issues.”
On April 6, Westminster police cited Streno for “committing false reporting to authorities,” saying there was probable cause to believe Streno “knowingly filed a false police report.”
However, in an interview with CBS4, Streno offered a different version of events. He said he happened to be driving past Dave and Busters March 18 on his way from dinner to a friend’s house. He said a few minutes earlier someone had called him to report “a concern about the level of drinking” at the staff party.
Streno refused to identify the person who he said called him. He said as he was driving by, he stopped in the Dave and Busters parking lot.
“I saw him (Sanchez) get in the car … I thought I saw his car … somebody pulled out. So I made a call to report a possible DUI,” Streno said.
Asked if he had tried to “set up” Sanchez in retaliation for his pending termination, Streno said, ‘I didn’t know I was being terminated at the end of this year. That’s a surprise.”
Streno now concedes he’s not positive about who and what he saw.
“I was just reporting what I saw or thought I saw,” Streno told Westminster police. “In my heart of hearts I believe I was doing the right thing and I erred on the side of caution,” he told CBS4.
Streno said he is currently on leave from the school district to care for an elderly relative.
Steve Saunders, a spokesperson for District 50, told CBS4, “It’s a personnel matter; that’s all I can tell you.” But Saunders said, “We are waiting for the outcome of the investigation before we make any other decisions.”
Streno is due in court May 17 on the false reporting charge.