The Nevada Division of Investigation should investigate the Boulder City chief of police, the City Council decided Tuesday night.
Chief Thomas Finn is accused of ordering his officers to delete emails to hide them from a possible public records request. Destroying a public record is a felony in Nevada.
“I think it’s serious enough that we have to provide a serious follow-up,” City Councilman Duncan McCoy said.
Finn, who has been chief since 2006, was not at the meeting. Dozens of members of the Mongols Motorcycle Club and other clubs attended the meeting.
The allegations against Finn were made by attorney Stephen Stubbs, who represents the Mongols.
The Mongols had planned an event in Boulder City over the summer. As the event approached, Finn sent an email to other city officials urging them to delete emails discussing the event.
“If (the Mongols) submit a records request for them it would obviously show our hand and divulge the strategies and staffing levels we need to keep confidential. Therefore, please delete any and all emails related to the event immediately,” Finn wrote.
Finn has sued several people, alleging they have conspired to destroy his reputation. The lawsuit, filed last week, names City Attorney Dave Olsen, Councilman Cam Walker, police Sgt. John Chase, retired Sgt. Dan Jennings and Stubbs.
Olsen told the City Council that he does not think Finn deleted any emails. But Olsen said he does believe that the chief tried to do so. That in itself may be a felony, he said.
He recommended that the council ask the Division of Investigation to investigate because asking the city’s own police department would present an obvious conflict of interest. But he said failing to investigate at all, while an option, would not present a good picture to the public.
“We’re trying to treat the department heads the same way we would treat any other citizen,” he said.
Stubbs, the attorney who brought the emails to light, said the chief violated the public’s trust. He mocked the chief’s claim that none of the officers deleted any emails, despite his order.
“If none of the officers followed his orders, that might be a clue that he shouldn’t be the police chief anyway,” Stubbs said.
Steve Sanson, the president of Veterans in Politics, told the council that the chief should be investigated.
“The chief of police is supposed to be held to a higher standard,” he said. “That’s what we’re missing.”
There was much discussion over whether to ask Clark County officials, such as the sheriff or the district attorney, to investigate. In the end, the council chose the Division of Investigation because council members felt the agency had the expertise to determine whether the chief actually deleted emails, and that even if he did not, whether his apparent attempt violated the law.
“I don’t know if the chief committed a serious blunder in this regard,” McCoy said. “I think it was a blunder, but I don’t know how serious it was.”
Contact reporter Richard Lake at email@example.com or 702-383-0307.