Former Police Chief Thomas Finn did not commit a crime when he asked city employees to delete emails before June’s visit by the Mongols Motorcycle Club, the Clark County district attorney’s office said Tuesday.
Finn directed staff June 11 to delete emails related to preparations for an event the motorcycle club was holding in Boulder City the weekend of June 22. The state attorney general’s office investigated the case, and asked the district attorney’s office to review their findings.
“At first, the email seemed unusual,” District Attorney Steve Wolfson said. “However, when the city actually received a public records request, Finn and the city provided the documents requested. In fact, Finn contacted the city’s IT (information technology) manager to make sure that backup computer files were searched for emails that may have been deleted from his individual inbox.”
According to a letter sent Tuesday to state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, Wolfson said there was no intent to commit a crime by Finn, and the state law governing deletion of public records “was written long before the explosion of the electronic age where virtually all things electronically created and shared live on potentially, even if deleted.”
Finn said in a statement he was “exonerated” by the “educated and experienced attorneys” of the two offices “who concluded after a lengthy investigation and a thorough review of all the evidence and applicable laws that I did not commit any crimes.”
The case was brought to the attorney general after a Nov. 27 vote by the City Council to have an outside agency investigate allegations that Finn may have committed a felonious act by the order.
Finn has stated that he always knew the public records would not truly be deleted, even if his officers deleted them.
In a Feb. 26 interview by a district attorney investigator, Finn said, “What I really wanted to do was to get that information off of the workstation computers to minimize the chance of someone who was not authorized to view it then disseminate it into the community.”
Finn said Tuesday that he was concerned about leakage of confidential documents from within the police department to outside parties, something that had been a growing problem.
In a statement, Wolfson said, “This action showed that Finn realized that while emails and records can be deleted from one file, they are not permanently deleted from the city’s computer system. This supports Finn’s contention that he was trying to prevent the accidental dissemination of sensitive information contained in various emails, instead of the permanent destruction of any public records.”
Members of the City Council, as well as City Attorney Dave Olsen, where unsure in November whether Finn had broken state law in ordering the email deletion, leading to the request for the outside investigation.
Olsen, who had not seen Wolfson’s statements Tuesday night, said that it was good for the city to get clarification for its email policies. Mayor Roger Tobler said Tuesday after City Council that the intent was not to “try to hang something on Finn” but to find out if any laws had been broken.
Tobler and Mayor Pro-tem Cam Walker said the findings went along with what they had believed all along — that no crime had been committed — but the investigation was necessary because of the state law’s wording.
Walker restated that the council has continued to support the way Finn handled the Mongols’ weekend in keeping the city safe.
More than a week before the club gathering, Finn sent an email to 29 police officers, as well as then-City Manager Vicki Mayes and Fire Chief Kevin Nicholson. The email states that then-Police Capt. Vincent Albowicz made the “excellent suggestion” to delete emails related to law enforcement’s preparation for the Mongols 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’s June email states.
Finn’s email order was brought to the attention of the city by Mongols attorney Stephen Stubbs, who received a copy of the email in October, anonymously slipped under his office door.
Stubbs began showing up at council meetings with large groups of bikers and contacting city officials, urging the city to have the matter investigated.
Stubbs said Monday he was “sick to his stomach” with the district attorney’s finding, and believes Wolfson protected Finn.
“Honestly, what I think, the district attorney currently has the endorsement of law enforcement. It’s an elected position, and today he made a decision he was going to protect law enforcement,” Stubbs said. “There was no other way to look at it.”
Specifically, Stubbs said the district attorney “completely ignored” language in the law stating it is also a crime to conceal public records.
On Wednesday Finn took Stubbs to task for public comments accusing him of multiple felonies, and city officials for asking for the investigation.
“Despite a monthslong barrage of outrageous statements to the media by Stephen Stubbs stating I had committed felonies, and bad advice to the City Council, once again, from City Attorney Dave Olsen, I knew I did nothing wrong and the truth would eventually prevail,” he said.
Stubbs has also accused Finn of committing two other crimes: Recording an October phone conversation without Stubbs’ knowledge, and using a confidential document from a police department investigation of Finn in court filings.
Olsen and City Manager David Fraser said Tuesday that the city isn’t “currently” investigating either accusation.
Finn was fired April 15 after returning from 12 weeks of medical leave by City Manager David Fraser. Finn had been the city’s police chief since March 22, 2006.
The city did not give a reason for Finn’s termination.