DENVER (CBS4) – Brent Miller, a former civilian investigator for the Denver Sheriff Department, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against Denver’s interim sheriff, manager of safety and other sheriff department commanders and safety officials, saying he was fired after blowing the whistle on what he viewed as corrupt and unethical practices within the Sheriff Department and the Manager of Safety’s Office.
CBS4 first reported last week on Miller’s claims. In one case earlier this month, Miller said a sheriff’s captain ordered him to destroy videotape of a handcuffed inmate being led naked through the halls of Denver Health Medical Center. Employees at DHMC filed a complaint with the Sheriff Department indicating they thought the inmate, Christopher Colbruno, was treated inappropriately.
Miller and a second investigator obtained hospital videotape of the inmate being led nude through hospital hallways. But on May 11, Miller said he was approached by Internal Affairs Cpt. Paul Ortega who told Miller not to upload the videotape.
According to the lawsuit obtained by CBS4, Miller said Ortega told him, “The case had been taken care of … they are making that go away.” Miller responded, “Who is they?” Ortega informed Miller that it was the “Sheriff.”
Miller said he protested the order but Ortega insisted, “I know, but it’s not a case. Get rid of the video … lose it.” The lawsuit states Miller then told Ortega it was not right, was unethical and was improper to destroy evidence.
Miller said he then reported what happened to two other civilian investigators and that he gave the tape to one of the other investigators for safekeeping.
The following day — May 12 — Miller said he was called into Ortega’s office and fired.
“Miller was informed by Cpt. Ortega that the sheriff and manager of safety wanted to let him go,” says the newly filed lawsuit. Miller said he was told he was being fired for being “too opinionated.”
The lawsuit states that Sheriff Elias Diggins — who has declined to comment on an active internal investigation — “contacted Carol Rogers at DHMC to discuss the third Colbruno case and whether or not an investigation was necessary. Apparently after Diggins’ contact with Ms. Rogers she agreed that an investigation into the matter was not necessary.”
Miller’s lawsuit says, “There is a pattern and practice of pressuring IAB investigators into manipulating or destroying evidence to achieve Defendant’s desired outcome in a case.”
Miller, who worked for the Adams County Sheriff’s Department for nearly 26 years before joining the Denver Sheriff Department, also cites an earlier incident to support his claim that internal investigations were being manipulated. He says that earlier this year after he investigated a sheriff’s deputy for potential wrongdoing he was ordered to remove a paragraph from his report that exonerated the deputy.
Denver’s Manager of Safety Stephanie O’Malley told CBS4 last week that an internal affairs investigation is being conducted by the Denver Police Department into Miller’s claims.
“It is inappropriate for me to disclose or verify any part of that investigation until it is complete and I have made a determination regarding its outcome.” Her statement went on to say that “I am able to verify that Senior Investigator Miller did not pass his employment probation with the City of Denver due to performance issues unrelated to the allegations referenced above.”
However, in his lawsuit Miller said up until he was terminated supervisors had always told him there were no complaints about his work which was exemplary.
Denver City Attorney Scott Martinez released a statement to CBS4 saying, “We have yet to be served with the lawsuit; however, we take every claim seriously and will analyze the lawsuit once it is received.”