LONGMONT — City officials Monday refused to say whether an investigation into one of their employees was sparked by comments he made last month on a Denver radio talk show.
Local activist and city recreation worker Glenn Spagnuolo says he’s being targeted for exercising his First Amendment rights in defending comments made by his friend, controversial University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill.
Spagnuolo said his supervisors and city human resources workers Friday told him he could be fired at the end of the investigation, then escorted him out of his office past his subordinates.
Spagnuolo said city human resources managers told him via e-mail that his comments on 630 AM KHOW last month sparked the investigation.
He declined to read or forward the e-mail to the Daily Times-Call, but said the first sentence reads: “We did indicate that the investigation started regarding the KHOW radio interview you participated in, as well as the potential impact that had on the city of Longmont.”
Spagnuolo said he was told to return to work as a recreation program supervisor Monday because he’s still being paid and has not been suspended. He has hired attorney David Lane, who also represents Churchill.
Spagnuolo appeared on KHOW to defend comments in which Churchill appears to advocate the violent overthrow of the government.
Spagnuolo said in the radio interview that he believes nonviolence is the “best weapon” but not the only weapon available to activists angry with the government.
“I do think that, at this time, the best weapon in our arsenal is nonviolent strategy,” Spagnuolo said. “But to say that in our arsenal that the opportunity for self-defense through violent means is off the table, we’ll take that off the table when Rumsfeld and Bush take their violent stance off the table.”
During the approximately 30-minute back-and-forth with the radio hosts, Spagnuolo identified himself as a friend of Churchill and as a member of Longmont Citizens for Justice and Democracy. He never said he worked for the city.
Responding to the hosts’ questions near the end of the radio appearance, Spagnuolo said police officers make themselves targets for violence by putting on their uniforms.
“Nobody deserves to be killed. But if you’re going to put a uniform on, I do (have) a lack of sympathy if you were killed,” Spagnuolo said.
That kind of comment, Spagnuolo said, raised the ire of local police. He said that a few days after he appeared on the show, a Longmont police officer called him to confirm he was the same Glenn Spagnuolo.
Longmont Police Chief Mike Butler confirmed that one of his officers called Spagnuolo, but said the two are acquaintances and that the call was not made as official police business.
“Frankly, the officer is an acquaintance, knows Glenn, wanted to know if that was him on the radio,” Butler said.
The chief said there is no current criminal investigation into Spagnuolo’s comments. He declined to say whether any officers were upset by Spagnuolo’s statements.
“Freedom of speech is paramount,” Butler said. “Glenn Spagnuolo’s comments are his and there’s not going to be any reaction one way or the other on behalf of the Longmont Police Department.”
Spagnuolo played a major role in fighting the soon-to-be built Wal-Mart Supercenter in Longmont and the renaming of Chivington Drive.
City spokesman Rigo Leal declined to comment on the investigation, saying the matter is confidential.
Trevor Hughes can be reached at 303-684-5220, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pierrette J. Shields can be reached at 303-684-5273, or by e-mail at email@example.com.