Councilmember draws scrutiny for actions in Parker alley

Lewis repeatedly called police officials after call about behavior in car

Posted 2/26/19

A town councilmember who was investigated on suspicion of public indecency has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing. But Debbie Lewis' response to the encounter with police in December has raised …

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Councilmember draws scrutiny for actions in Parker alley

Lewis repeatedly called police officials after call about behavior in car

Posted

A town councilmember who was investigated on suspicion of public indecency has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing. But Debbie Lewis' response to the encounter with police in December has raised alarms for some and prompted at least one executive session by town council to discuss the matter.

Neither Lewis, who is amid her second term on Parker Town Council, nor the man in the vehicle with her the night of Dec. 12 were cited by police in the incident, which was investigated by the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office.

About 7:15 p.m. on Dec. 12, police were notified after a different man, who was accompanied by his 14-year-old daughter, reported seeing a woman perform what he believed was a sex act on the man in the vehicle, according to a letter summarizing the DA's office's review of the case. The two were questioned by police, who had found them in a parked vehicle in an alley just off Mainstreet behind the Parker Garage restaurant. Both Lewis and her companion denied they had done anything wrong when police questioned them.

"It was the determination of our officers on scene that no crime had been committed and they were not cited," according to a news release issued by the Parker Police Department on Feb. 22.

The release states the investigation was turned over to the DA's office the next morning, "as is appropriate when a town official is involved."

The letter summarizing the DA's investigation — dated Jan. 24 and obtained by Colorado Community Media on Feb. 26 —states there was not a "substantial likelihood of conviction if this case were to proceed to trial."

"Therefore, I do not believe that criminal charges are appropriate in this case," Douglas Bechtel, senior deputy district attorney, wrote in the letter, which was addressed to Parker Police Chief David King.

Lewis was not immediately available for comment.

The 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office was also asked to review Lewis' actions during and after the encounter with officers, exploring the possibility of official misconduct.

On the evening of Dec. 12, Lewis was noticeably upset as she was questioned by police and made phone calls to King and the assistant police chief, Jim Tsurapas, to ask that the officers leave her alone, according to a report from the DA's office.

After that, the calls to the chief and assistant chief continued, according to the report.

The DA's investigation found that Lewis made five separate calls to Tsurapas the night of the incident and one call the following morning. On three occasions, the two spoke, with the assistant chief characterizing Lewis as upset.

Lewis was reportedly “ranting and raving,” and repeatedly asked Tsurapas why police were called, why she was being detained and who caused the police contact to happen. In one call, Lewis told Tsurapas “someone was going to pay for this.”

Lewis called King six times and the two spoke twice, according to the report. During a converation while the officers were still on scene, she asked the chief to "get them to leave."

The DA's office investigated whether Lewis' actions violated the statutes of first- or second-degree official misconduct. In a letter to King, Matt Maillaro, assistant district attorney, found Lewis did not violate either of the two accusations of official misconduct.

The element of Lewis making requests “related to her office” were missing, the letter, dated Feb. 19, states. Lewis' statements did not constitute “orders,” that were contemplated by the local code.

“…It seems clear that while Ms. Lewis didn’t specifically ask for preferential treatment, she was nonetheless seeking your assistance based on her existing relationship with you, the Assistant Chief, and your department,” the letter reads. “However, evidence to support the statutory requirement of the use of ‘deceit or by threat of violence or economic reprisal against any person or property’ is clearly missing.”

"The Parker Town Council does not condone the poor judgment of Councilmember Lewis in this matter, including her repeated contacts with the Chief of Police and the Deputy Chief of Police," according to a statement issued on behalf of the town council. "The Parker Town Council will evaluate what options are available to address the lack of judgment exercised by Councilmember Lewis in her capacity as a Councilmember. The Parker Town Council appreciates the proper handling of this matter by the Parker Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office."

Mayor Mike Waid added: “I am deeply disappointed in her lack of judgment, but I'm very proud of the fact our staff was so quick to bring the District Attorney into this so we can remain transparent."

The Parker Town Council met in executive session the night of Feb. 25, when the council was briefed on the situation. Council will meet March 4 and further discuss the matter.

“It's my hope that (Lewis) will do the right and honorable thing in this because as elected officials we are held to a higher standard, and rightfully so,” Councilmember Jeff Toborg said.

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