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Congrove cleared in CBI investigation; 'murky' behavior troubles prosecutor

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By AJ Vicens

A special prosecutor investigating allegations that Jeffco Commissioner Jim Congrove inappropriately authorized the use of county money to hire a friend to investigate a county critic and employee will not file charges in the case.

But a couple of issues related to Congrove’s behavior remain “murky” and “clearly troubling,” according to the prosecutor’s statement, however.

Congrove did not return a call seeking comment on the report.

Congrove has been under investigation by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for nearly a year after allegations surfaced that he had inappropriately used taxpayer dollars to hire a private investigation firm run by his longtime friend Daril Cinquanta to investigate county critic Mike Zinna and a former county employee. Zinna sued Jefferson County in 2005 related to undeveloped land at the county airport.

Adams County prosecutor Don Quick was appointed as special prosecutor in the case.

The investigation confirmed that Jeffco paid Cinquanta’s company, Professional Investigators Inc., $7,462 between Feb. 23, 2005, and July 21, 2006, but the prosecutor’s office could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that services provided by the company did not benefit the county. The investigation also concluded that since it could not be proven that the services did not benefit the county, it could also not be proven that Congrove or former County Attorney Frank Huftless did anything wrong by authorizing the payments.

Huftless authorized all but one of the payments, according to the prosecutor. Congrove personally approved one of the payments — a decision later approved by the full Board of County Commissioners — in a move Quick called said was “murkier” in terms of determining legality or justifications.

Congrove told investigators that he wanted to determine whether a county contract involving janitorial services was being awarded properly, so Cinquanta’s company was contracted to investigate.

“Logically this kind of question should have been directed to the county attorney, not to a private investigator,” Quick said.

Quick also said that questions concerning a rolling filing cabinet supposedly containing the investigative material related to Zinna are “clearly troubling.”

A rolling file cabinet was reported to investigators as containing all the investigative material related to the Zinna litigation. CBI investigators saw the cabinet in Congrove’s office and found nothing in it, according to Quick, but at various points in time materials were said to be in it by other county employees.

“Given the considerable efforts expended in the Zinna litigation, keeping sensitive investigative information in a rolling file cabinet accessible to a number of county employees makes it impossible to determine the contents of this file — let alone who was adding or taking documents from that file,” Quick said. “It is also very concerning that, when questioned about the rolling file, Commissioner Congrove did not disclose to CBI agents that (it) was now empty and in his office at the time of the interview. (Given Commissioner Congrove’s years as a police officer, the omission is inexplicable).”

Quick was firm in stating that Congrove didn’t break the law but left the door open on questions of ethical soundness in the commissioner’s activities.

“Whether the conduct described herein is a ‘best practice’ or ‘appropriate policy’ for county officials supported by county taxpayers, is not the question before me,” Quick said. “The answer to that question appropriately vests with the Jefferson County government and the citizens of Jefferson County.”

“I am very glad this investigation has been completed,” Commissioner Kevin McCasky said in a prepared statement Thursday afternoon. “I can assure you that I have taken steps to make certain that the entire Board of County Commissioners is briefed and fully aware whenever the hiring of an outside contractor by the county is proposed. At this time, I have no further comment. I look forward to moving ahead and concentrating on the business of serving the citizens of Jefferson County.”

Contact AJ Vicens at: aj@evergreenco.com.