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Publish Date: 5/3/2005

Spagnuolo probe complete
Top city officials to begin reviewing data collected during investigation


LONGMONT — The internal investigation into an activist city worker is complete and being reviewed by top officials who are trying to figure out how to proceed.

City officials say they have finished the “information gathering” phase but maintain no conclusions have been drawn about the actions of recreation program supervisor Glenn Spagnuolo.

City officials are looking into possible misuse of his computer, cell phone and time in his support of controversial University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill. Spagnuolo faces termination, but could also be exonerated.

“The data-gathering is complete,” city spokesman Rigo Leal said of the internal Longmont investigation. “We are carefully reviewing the data.”

At the same time, Spagnuolo is suing the city to stop its investigation, and is now himself being sued for defamation by a KHOW radio show host.

That suit, filed last week by 630 KHOW-AM talk radio host Dan Caplis, claims Spagnuolo defamed him by saying he was accused of assaulting a woman during a 1977 CU fracas. Spagnuolo said Caplis’s lawsuit is “frivolous” and merely an extension of bad blood between him, Caplis and co-host Craig Silverman.

When talking to groups of reporters, Spagnuolo refuses to answer questions from Silverman.

The city did not provide a timeframe for deciding a final course of action for the Spagnuolo case now that it has completed its inquiry.

As part of its investigation, city Human Resources workers combed Spagnuolo’s computer, checked his e-mail and Internet use, and interviewed his co-workers.

Spagnuolo was also interviewed, and said the questions focused primarily on his activism. Spagnuolo was arrested and cleared for a protest against Columbus Day activities in Denver, and has attended numerous protests against globalization and what he considers unfair trade practices.

“A lot of it was really ridiculous stuff, like did I ever show co-workers some of the pictures from my vacation in Florida,” Spagnuolo said Monday. “Stuff that has no relevance to my job. They were really curious about my protest activities.”

Spagnuolo said he was unaware the city had completed its “data gathering” until told by a reporter.

He said the city could have avoided the reams of bad publicity it has received by approaching him informally. Spagnuolo believes the city publicized its investigation by calling KHOW radio anonymously. City officials reject that suggestion and say Spagnuolo sought publicity by sending out a press release.

E-mails and letters have been pouring into city hall supporting Spagnuolo, and the city has been roundly criticized as trampling his free-speech rights.

Still, a federal judge has upheld the city’s right to conduct the investigation, which city officials say is necessary to ensure public money is being spent appropriately.

Spagnuolo said he believes any violations — and he doesn’t think there were any — would be considered minor. Much of the investigation appears to hinge on the city’s definition of “occasional” as it relates to personal use of computers and cell phones.

As an example, Spagnuolo said he acknowledged printing a protest flyer from his work computer but said it was done after hours and on his own time.

The city has also looked at whether Spagnuolo used his city cell phone too frequently, although he reimbursed taxpayers for personal calls. Spagnuolo has since acquired a second cell phone and tells people to dial that one unless they are calling on city business.

“Is it really worth all the money (the city has) spent? They could have just talked to me,” Spagnuolo said. “Even if there was a concern in their mind about policy violations — they’ve wasted tens of thousands of dollars over something that could have been settled over lunch.”

He added: “We could have just sat down and dialogued like an other employee and employer. When I’m at work, I’m a different Glenn Spagnuolo.”

City officials have declined to comment on the specifics of the investigation, but during a court hearing, they said they were upset about comments Spagnuolo made on a KHOW radio program in March defending Churchill. Both Churchill and Spagnuolo said violence can be an option to solving problems with the government.

Spagnuolo insists he considers that a last resort and prefers nonviolence.

Trevor Hughes can be reached at 303-684-5220, or by e-mail at thughes@times-call.com.

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