CENTER— Following an article that appeared in last week’s Center Post-Dispatch, former Center police chief James Gowin has asked to correct what might be the impression that he resigned his position owing to some wrongdoing on his part.
“I did not resign,” Gowin emphasized in a letter sent to KSLV Radio, Valley Publishing and the Valley Courier. “I chose to retire on March 31, 2018, because the Town of Center was going to be swearing in a governing board the beginning of April that I believed was less than ethical. As chief, I would not accept direction from a board that, very clearly, would hold the police department captive to their whims and use the board’s power for selfish purposes.
“The board was not elected by the will of the people of Center. The members on the board who were either new to the board, or whose seats were up for election and retained their seats, are in those positions/seats by default. An election was not held because the number of candidates matched the exact number of seat vacancies” as provided by law, but in the election notice given, no end date was provided for applications to be submitted for the positions.
“The reasons I left had nothing to do with any sort of wrongdoing on my part. I performed the duties of my position ethically, morally and [my decisions were] legally sound. Bill McClure, Mary McClure, Adeline Sanchez, Jenny Sanchez and the Chavezes of Center did not care for me because I was ethically, morally and legally sound and could not be manipulated for their own self-serving purposes.”
Gowin’s retirement came shortly after charges he had forwarded to District Attorney Crista Newmyer-Olsen were filed against Theresa (Audrey) Chavez and her husband Ruben for burglary and criminal mischief. Newmyer-Olsen made the decision to file the charges against the Chavezes based on body cam footage shot by Center police. The footage shows it was Ruben Chavez who actually removed items from the trailer of a renter resulting in the burglary charges.
After the charges were filed, Gowin heard rumors circulating that he had not handled the case properly. To address these baseless rumors, he said, he chose to address the Center Town Board in executive session since it was “a personnel issue regarding my job performance.” Gowin provided the board with several Colorado Revised Statutes, some civil and some criminal.
Because executive sessions are not public, Gowin’s discussion with town board members could not be made public and town board members could not discuss the subject matter of the meeting with anyone who was not in attendance. Nevertheless, the Chavezes learned somehow about what was discussed in the meeting, Gowin said.
Shortly afterwards, Gowin attended the preliminary hearing for Theresa Chavez in Saguache. Jennie Sanchez, Mary McClure and Adeline Sanchez were in the courtroom to support their friend, who is the Center Housing director. Following that hearing, Chavez was bound over for trial. Mary McClure and Jennie Sanchez also attended the hearing last week where Theresa Chavez pled guilty to criminal mischief.
“I am a bit perplexed how board members openly support an individual who has a criminal case pending while simultaneously attacking their police department which had done absolutely nothing inappropriate,” Gowin commented in his letter.
Gowin releases details of the Chavez charges
“After seeing the support for Mrs. Chavez by two active board members, I requested permission from the DA handling the case to release the details of the incidents that led to the criminal report being sent to the DA’s office.” The deputy DA handling the case approved the release and Gowin forwarded a copy of the charges and the camera footage to the Center Post-Dispatch.
After the Center Post-Dispatch article was published and the citizens were informed of the incident, Gowin said, Adeline Sanchez directed Town Administrator Brian Lujan to investigate him to see if he had violated any policies for releasing public information without going through the board first. Previous board members later admitted they had no idea Sanchez had requested an investigation.
Sanchez “did this on her own, without consulting the board,” Gowin pointed out. “I believe this to be an unethical and retaliatory action against me for properly conducting law enforcement business, which I am obligated to do by Colorado Statute as a P.O.S.T. certified peace officer.”
Gowin met with Lujan who asked why he had released the information without consulting him first. He told Lujan he did it intentionally, did not violate any town policies and that as chief of police, and with the DA’s permission, he had the right to release the information.
“I brought up the fact that he was directed to investigate my actions by a single member of the board and asked him how that could have happened in accordance with policy,” Gowin recalled. “I then asked him if he is going to investigate me, should it not be a board-approved action?”
“Since investigating the chief of police would be considered a personnel matter for the board, I as chief would have to be notified in advance,” Gowin noted. “Once this occurs, I can then choose to have the discussion in an open meeting/session, as opposed to the executive session.”
Gowin then told Lujan he would be contacting his attorney as this action by (Adeline) Sanchez was “clearly retaliatory in nature. I contacted my attorney and was told that the action taken by Adeline most definitely would be considered retaliatory in nature and I would be protected by civil law should it become an issue.”
Town considering board control of police?
“Bill McClure…is a convicted felon for filing false tax returns, i.e. fraud. Adeline [Sanchez] and Mary [McClure] have clearly demonstrated they do not have the best interests of the community in mind by their previous actions.” Gowin says there has been talk and continues to be talk that Mary and Bill McClure, also Adeline Sanchez, want to put the police department under control of the board.
“While it possible to do that, it is not how a town should be run,” Gowin emphasized. “A board should provide guidance to the town manager in terms of goals and objectives, and then it is the town manager’s job to make those goals and objectives come to life.”
“The only purpose to put the police department under the board in this case would be so that the board can control what, when, where and how the police department handles its business,” Gowin explained. “With this board in place, there will be attempts, and maybe even some successes, in ensuring only certain segments of the community get “policed,” i.e. others would receive preferential treatment; which did not happen when I was the police chief.”
Gowin added that he made it clear to the board before he was hired that he would not grant preferential treatment to anyone. He says he is concerned because he has heard that Bill McClure hired the current police chief and some residents feel this is not working out well for the town.
“I personally enjoyed my time as the police chief for the Town of Center,” Gowin concluded. “I heard from many residents that it was great to have a police department that could not be manipulated, which unfortunately, may never have existed in the Town of Center prior to me. I continue to keep in touch with many citizens in Center because I did, and still do, truly care about the community and had the town and citizens’ best interests at heart.”
Please see additional story on Center police chiefs on Page 3A.