Workplace investigation reveals "tumultuous environment" inside Florence Police Department

FLORENCE, Colo. (KRDO) — A 76-page workplace investigative report reveals allegations of threats, unfairness, and blackmail involving the Florence Police Department’s current and former officers.

Several officers have left the department since the beginning of the year.

In March, the third-party investigation conducted by Employers Council primarily focused on allegations levied against Florence Police Chief Shane Prickett and his treatment of officers.

The investigation

The investigation surrounded various allegations, including whether or not the police chief “froze out” former Deputy Chief Bill Vinelli after he submitted a letter of resignation.

Employers Council did find that Chief Prickett “more likely than not” unjustifiably requested that Vinelli turn in his patrol vehicle, and stated that his law enforcement services were no longer needed. This action followed Vinelli’s resignation to take the police chief job in Morrison. Investigators wrote that it was “more likely than not” that Prickett’s actions were influenced by Vinelli publicly raising concerns about pay, human resources, and security concerns to the former Florence City Council, which resigned en masse on March 22. Council members say they were unable to get corruption allegations investigated by higher law enforcement agencies.

However, most of the workplace allegations including were not substantiated by workplace investigators.

Summary of Findings by Employers Council Investigation of Florence Police Department

The workplace investigator wrote that there were inconsistencies in Prickett’s statements regarding how the former deputy chief’s resignation was handled. According to the report, the inconsistencies surrounded conversations between former interim City Manager Sean Garrett and Prickett after Vinelli turned in his resignation letter.

Specifically, the workplace investigator wrote:

For instance, Chief Prickett states Mr. Garrett called him into his
office, while Mr. Garrett states the conversation took place in Chief Prickett’s
office. In addition, Mr. Garrett discusses that he had two conversations with Chief

Prickett in regard to Mr. Vinelli’s resignation; the first conversation took place in
Chief Prickett’s office on January 28, 2022, and the second conversation took place
a short time later over the phone sometime between January 31, 2022, and February
4, 2022. Mr. Garrett recollects this call was over the phone because he was at home
with COVID. Mr. Garrett unequivocally and consistently states it was Chief
Prickett who first proffered the idea that Mr. Vinelli’s resignation take effect
sooner; however, as Mr. Garrett states, with everything going on, both he and Chief
Prickett agreed that it would have been best for Mr. Vinelli’s resignation to take
effect sooner than February 9, 2022. Mr. Garrett does not appear to harbor any bias
or ulterior motives which would lead this investigator to question his credibility or
veracity for truthfulness. This investigator finds Mr. Garrett to be the more reliable
witness of the two.”

13 Investigates has repeatedly reached out to Florence Police Chief Shane Prickett and Interim City Manager Tom Piltingsrud for comment about the report and its findings. Our requests have been ignored.

The report also alleges that several officers “sat in their offices all day long” and current Lt. Mike Ingle says the Chief was “frustrated” with the sergeants.

Tumultuous Environment

The investigative report reveals there were two “factions” inside the Florence Police Department at the beginning of the year.

“As the evidence shows, there was a tumultuous environment at the Florence PD
during this time. From June 2021 through February 2022, there were a copious
number of complaints being brought to the city managers, and members of city
council. These complaints were overwhelmingly being brought forth by Mr.
Dorman and Mr. Gordon, both former sergeants of the Florence PD. The

complaints transcended two City-Managers, Michael Patterson, and Sean Garrett.
The primary crux of Mr. Dorman’s and Mr. Gordon’s complaints was that Chief
Prickett would not provide effective communication,”
the workplace investigator wrote.

Among the other concerns raised by former Sgt. Jason Dorman and former Sgt. Michael Gordon was communication, retaliation, and schedules.

“There was no reason for the schedule change,” Gordon told investigators. “I do not believe we worked the schedule. Deputy Chief went in and advocated for me and Sgt. Dorman. At first, Chief told Deputy Chief he was not going to negotiate to terrorists, and he could be a bigger dick to us.”

Prickett admitted to the workplace investigators that he told the deputy chief: “I did not
negotiate with terrorist type threats, such as giving me an ultimatum about quitting.
In my past experience, when I gave into people making threats, they would continue
to make threats in the future to get what they wanted.”

Two of the officers also raised concerns about a “closed-door” meeting the police chief’s wife had with fired City Manager Mike Patterson and comments she made to her sister-in-law, who is married to former Sgt. Dorman. The interview also revealed the police chief’s wife had access to the police department entrance.

A portion of former Sgt. Jason Dorman statement to Employers Council

The investigation says the police chief’s wife later emailed Sgt. Dorman’s wife and explained that her comment about “losing a home” was regarding a Colorado Senate bill. Dorman told the investigator the conversation between the wives was not about a legislative measure.

“This investigator can understand the frustrations of Mr. Gordon and Mr. Dorman in regard to the lack of communication from Chief Prickett; however, as the evidence shows, not all officers shared their
perceptions,” the workplace investigator wrote.

What current officers say

“Chief communicates effectively with the officers,” Commander Sean Humphrey said during an interview. “Chief usually provides directives through emails because it is the best way to send information out, as there are officers who also work nights.”

Humphrey told the workplace investigators he has known Prickett since kindergarten and worked with him for 18 years.

A portion of Officer Susan Barnes statement to Employers Council

Officers who currently work at the Florence Police Department say they support the chief and do not perceive his behavior as retaliatory, as alleged by the former officers. In fact, many of the current officers appeared to take issue with the now-former officers’ behavior and comments they made about Chief Prickett.

“Chief is a loving and kindhearted,” Officer Amanda Winters said. “I have seen spiteful and vindictiveness, [but] never once have I seen Chief act this way.”

Some current officers believe some of the communication concerns could relate to Prickett not liking confrontation.

“Chief Prickett is relatively new in his role as Chief of the department,” Lt. Mike Ingle said. “Chief is trying to find his way. Chief is good-hearted, and he is honest. It is bizarre they went this direction.”

Chief Prickett says that since several officers left, the Florence Police Department is running smoother with a better culture.

“Officers have expressed to me that they are happier now,” Prickett said. “Everyone feels they can talk freely. Officers are excited for our meetings. I think we had a few poison pills who had an agenda for Bill [Vinelli] to be made Chief.”

Unanswered questions

“The department does not have a leader,” former Corporal Joe Sackett said. “We have someone who is just here. Chief is not the best person for the job. Chief got this job because he blackmailed his way into it. I can see the agency disbanded because of how Chief is doing things. This is not good for anyone.”

13 Investigates has asked the City of Florence numerous questions regarding the report.

Those questions include:

  • How is Interim City Manager Tom Piltingsrud addressing the findings and interviews with police officers?
  • Who currently has access to the Florence Police Department personnel entrance?
  • How is the city handling the blackmail allegations levied against the police chief?

13 Investigates has not received a response from Prickett or Piltingsrud regarding the workplace investigation.

You can read the full 76-page workplace investigation report here.

If you have a tip related to our ongoing investigation into corruption allegations in the City of Florence, email our team at 13Investigates@krdo.com.

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