By Matt Kroschel
GEORGETOWN, Colo. (CBS4) – Following allegations of wrongdoing, CBS4 has learned the Georgetown Marshal’s Office wants the 5th Judicial District Attorney to investigate the chief of the Clear Creek Fire Authority.
According to a letter to the district attorney obtained by CBS4 on Monday, investigators claim Chief Kelly Babeon disciplined a fellow firefighter for assisting law enforcement earlier this year and that his actions were “appalling.”
The following is the letter sent to the DA Monday: “During the summer of 2016, an investigation into the illegal cultivation of marijuana culminated in the valid procurement and subsequent execution of a search warrant. The warrant was executed at a location known as the ‘Crazy Horse,’ in the Gateway business district of Georgetown. The investigation involved interviewing several people, some of whom possessed material knowledge relevant to the investigation while others possessed knowledge potentially vital to officer safety. Not one of these witnesses contributed information that carried enough weight to give rise to probable cause for the aforesaid search warrant. Most of the information sufficient for the warrant came from officer observation, experience and training, and information obtained through applicable utility records.
Chief Brian Oppenheimer [Chief 2] of the Clear Creek Fire Authority provided information that potentially corroborated the investigation, and whose information provided a heightened level of safety for the officers who made entry into the building. Chief Oppenheimer relayed information from an inspection occurring approximately three years earlier; the inspection report, as is understood, is public information and cannot be held in confidentiality. Oppenheimer’s information indicated that during the time of the inspection, a grow operation [marijuana] existed in the commercial building in violation of Town ordinance(s). More importantly, Oppenheimer provided information to the modified layout of the building where the grow operation was.
When it was disclosed that Chief Oppenheimer received a disciplinary letter by Chief Babeon for assisting law enforcement in this matter, it was appalling and cause for great trepidation within the public safety community. In light of the fact that nothing disclosed by Chief Oppenheimer violated Fire Authority policy [author has only testimonial knowledge of this fact], or confidentiality, the letter was immediately interpreted as felony witness tampering, in violation of Colorado Revised Statute 18-8-707. This is a serious offense and warrants a swift response by law enforcement to avoid future similar behavior. But diplomacy must also factor in under certain circumstances; given the position of Chief Babeon and the integrity of the Fire Authority, this matter as it stands will be left to the dictates of the Fire Authority Board.
It has also come to our attention that members of the fire department are being instructed not to speak with “third party” individuals, especially the Georgetown Marshal’s Office. Recently, a memorandum of understanding was tailored from a similar agreement Idaho Springs Police have with the Fire Authority, allowing the fire department to inspect commercial properties within Georgetown limits for safety compliance. The agreement, in summary, allows for the fire department to conduct inspections and, if deficiencies or other circumstances requiring law enforcement are discovered, the presiding jurisdiction is contacted for proper action. The agreement accepted by Chief Babeon [approximate late spring or early summer] and allegedly filed, thus establishing a special relationship. This is the type relationship necessary to ensure the safety of the public. How is the transmission of information outlined in the agreement any different than Chief Oppenheimer’s contribution?
If Chief Babeon’s despotic-style management is allowed to continue or progress, it will surely be injurious to the whole of public safety and abridging to the public trust.”
District Attorney Bruce Brown confirmed his office had accepted that request.
“We will expeditiously endeavor to complete and determine whether any violations of criminal offenses occurred and if a criminal prosecution is warranted under the circumstances,” Brown told CBS4.
Brown said no specific timeline exists for completion of the investigation. The investigation will typically include interviewing principals involved in the underlying acts described and reviewing relevant documentation. The office gives these matters a high priority since it affects public official integrity.
This office has been in contact with the Clear Creek Fire Authority Board and made them aware of this status. It is expected that all public officials will be extremely cooperative with the investigation.
“The District Attorney’s Office maintains a strong working relationship with all involved persons and hopes that our investigation will not in any way disrupt services received by the public who depends upon this agency for important rescue and fire services,” Brown said through a prepared statement to CBS4 Monday.