FLORENCE, Colo. (KRDO) – The Florence Police Department is now suspended from a federal government equipment program after a surprise audit last week, according to records reviewed by 13 Investigations.
In January, 13 Investigations began to look at the federal program and how the Florence Police Department used it.
The suspension follows more than a month of persistent corruption allegations uncovered by Florence citizens, former city employees and resigning members of the Florence City Council.
Corruption allegations include missing taxpayers’ money, illegal wiretapping at Florence City Hall and the federal government’s program, from which the Florence police department has just been suspended.
Florence police suspended
A recording of a January 3 Florence City Council executive session reveals that former Florence council member Allen Knisley raised concerns about the federal equipment program, saying it was “so corrupt” after seeing the city’s financial books related to the scheme.
Current Chief Constable Shane Prickett told the council this year at this executive session that the program was no longer “corrupt” and that he and the current chief financial officer had fixed it.
You can listen to part of that conversation below.
On Friday, April 1, a state coordinator notified the Florence Police Department that he had been suspended for 60 days from the federal “1033 program” after the agency failed to produce $6,745 of equipment loaned by the federal government during the surprise audit.
The “1033 Program” is a federally run program that allows local governments and police departments to borrow surplus military equipment, including vehicles, firearms, ammunition, and more.
The Florence Police Department did not produce or show equipment custody receipts for the magazines and binoculars, according to state records. The Florence Police Department also did not have a federally loaned vehicle on its property, as required by the federal government. Instead, officers in Florence told listeners the car was at the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office.
Florence Lt. Mike Ingle wrote an email to his acting city manager, Tom Piltingsrud, saying it was apparent that auditors had decided to suspend the Florence Police Department “regardless of what they found during the audit” due to complaints and public attention.
The “1033 program” was formerly known as the Defense Reutilization Marketing Office (DRMO) program.
Several Florentine taxpayers and former council members tell 13 Investigations they had previously expressed concerns about the operation of the “DRMO” program. More recently, former city councilor Brian Allen issued a statement when Florence City Council resigned en masse, saying the DRMO program should be investigated amid growing calls for corruption allegations be reviewed by a higher law enforcement authority.
13 Investigations found that since 2011, the Florence Police Department has used dozens of municipal financial accounts for transactions related to the program.
Records show that Florence’s current finance director, Lori Cobler, transferred the program to the general fund of another city fund a few years ago.
In 2015, current Florence Police Chief Shane Prickett worked under now-retired Florence Police Chief Mike DeLaurentis and sold DRMO equipment, according to police records. town.
In a 2015 email, Prickett complained about what he believed to be discriminatory practices with shift and duty changes and mentioned a change in his DRMO-related duties. Prickett received a 5-day suspension without pay after he emailed the complaint about his former boss.
City under investigation
13 Investigations has reached out to Florence Acting City Manager Tom Piltingsrud, Florence Police Chief Shane Prickett and Finance Director Lori Cobler for comment, but has yet to receive a response.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation is investigating “potential criminal allegations” after 11th Judicial District Attorney Linda Stanley met with officers March 30. 13 Investigations repeatedly asked Florence Acting City Manager Tom Piltingsrud and Florence Police Chief Shane Prickett for comment on the CBI investigation. They never answered our questions regarding CBI.
However, Piltingsrud wrote in the city manager’s latest report that the town of Fountain still wants to investigate Florence’s problems, even though on Friday Fountain’s police chief said 13 Investigations he has no jurisdiction to do so and was only hoping to help with the political type exams.
Piltingsrud also said in his report that the 11th Judicial District attorney’s office did not respond to his calls asking about the CBI investigation.
If you have a tip or lead that you would like our team to investigate, email us at 13Investigates@krdo.com.