By Brian Maass
DENVER (CBS4) - A CBS4 investigation has found that a senior assistant city attorney with the City of Denver has been paid more than $213,000 during 19 months of paid leave. That includes a nearly $4,000 pay increase he was awarded midway through his paid suspension, even though he hadn't been to his office or worked on any cases in months.
"At the end of the day it's important that a person does get due process. That's where I put my stake in the ground," said City Attorney Scott Martinez when approached by CBS4 about the case of his subordinate, Stuart Shapiro. "At the end of the day the buck stops with me."
Martinez refused to discuss specifics of the Shapiro case saying, "I'm not at liberty to discuss specific personnel matters."
The city placed Shapiro on paid administrative leave July 21, 2014 saying they wanted to review his conduct in overseeing the case of Jamal Hunter, a former Denver jail inmate. The city agreed to pay Hunter $3.25 million for injuries he received while incarcerated at the Denver jail. But the City Attorney's Office apparently had questions about Shapiro's conduct overseeing the case and sent him home on paid investigative leave.
Shapiro was ordered not to go to work and to turn in his building access cards and keys. After more than 19 months that pricey paid leave continues with little explanation from the city.
Shapiro and his attorney, Nathan Chambers, declined to comment to CBS4 about the duration of the paid leave or what's going on behind the scenes. However John Neumeier, Shapiro's next door neighbor in Denver's Platt Park neighborhood, was perplexed by the year and a half paid leave.
"I see him pretty much every day," said Neumeier. "He runs a lot. He's home during the day. If Stuart puts out the recycling, it's recycling day."
The CBS4 investigation asked via open records request how many cases had been assigned to Shapiro during 2015. "Zero" was the answer from the City Attorney's Office.
The agency was also asked how many times Shapiro had entered the office in 2015. "We do not have a record readily available to answer this question, but believe the answer would be 0-5," said an administrator for the City Attorney's Office.
According to additional records collected by Watchdog.org, in January 2015, after Shapiro had been on leave for six months, he was given a performance review and graded as having had a "satisfactory" performance, even though he apparently did no work and had been ordered to stay away from his office. Consequently, the city awarded him a nearly $4,000 annual merit increase bringing his annual salary to $142,921.90 per year.
Watchdog.org obtained other records that showed most city employees currently on paid leave remain that way for less than two months, with the longest on leave for just over half a year.
More than a year ago Shapiro filed a notice with the city, indicating he might eventually sue over being placed on leave and stating his case. In that notice Shapiro said he was being used as a "scapegoat in the Hunter case due to public pressure." The document filed by Shapiro's lawyer contends "There was no valid or factual justification to place Mr. Shapiro on leave ... the actions of the City of Denver and the City Attorney's Office were an attempt to justify the unjustifiable $3.25 million settlement of the Hunter case. The facts of the Hunter case did not warrant a seven figure damage award under any circumstances."
Shapiro said the case and subsequent leave has ruined a 30-year legal career and curtailed his hopes to eventually become a judge.
As the paid leave continues taxpayers may be on the hook for even more money. Shapiro may soon receive another merit raise soon for his 2015 job performance even though he apparently was not in the office for all of 2015 and did no work for the city.
Evaluations for City Attorney's Office employees are due this month and Shapiro could potentially receive another pay raise.
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