DENVER (CBS4)- Three veteran prosecutors with Denver's City Attorney's Office used an internal city email and messaging system to repeatedly disparage their bosses, boast about how little they were working during their stay-at-home phase of the pandemic, confessed to misusing a criminal records database and reveled in causing a coworker to suffer a "nervous breakdown," according to disciplinary documents obtained by CBS4.
Two of the three lawyers resigned during a disciplinary investigation and the third was suspended but returned to her job.
City Attorney Kristin Bronson declined to be interviewed about the CBS4 reporting but in a written statement said, "The City Attorney's Office was both appalled and extremely disappointed by the misconduct of these three attorneys. Their actions in no way reflected the values of this office, our dedication to this great city or the culture of diversity, equity, racial equality and inclusivity that we strive to achieve every day."
Attorneys Eric Reece and Kristina Bush resigned during the investigation into their conduct. Emily Reisdorph was suspended without pay for 15 days and has resumed working for the City Attorneys Office. All three worked in the Prosecution and Code Enforcement Section of the office. Reece was a Senior Assistant City Attorney as was Reisdorph. Bush was an Assistant City Attorney.
CBS4 obtained hundreds of emails and electronic messages the trio exchanged with each other and other employees of the City Attorneys Office, over a city communications system in 2020 as they worked from home during the pandemic.
On one workday, Reisdorph emailed Reece and Bush; "Watched crime show to assess the credibility of the self-D(defense) claim-4 hrs. Practiced my courtroom skills by presenting a closing argument for my kids. Topic: schoolwork must be done before play time-2 hrs."
She also told her colleagues she was spending time looking for gifs on the internet and disparaged a supervisor: "Brad is an idiot... Brad is nauseating" she emailed Bush.
"Yeah I think he's an idiot..." Bush responded.
Reece chimed in, "Brad is such a two-faced ass kisser."
On many days, the prosecutors chatted about how little they were working.
"What are we supposed to do today?" Reece messaged Reisdorph.
"Nothing," she responded.
In another message, Reece said, "I went fishing in the middle of the day yesterday."
And on another day he wrote, "So I am wasting time watching the Space X launch."
Kristina Bush shared with her colleagues on a workday, "I am chatting most of the day. I basically sit watching TV and typing things all day long. I'm getting nothing done today."
Bush noted, telling her coworkers her lack of productivity was partly due to a "hangover." In another message, she said, "It is not like I'm doing anything. I am chatting most of the day."
Contacted by CBS4, Bush did not offer an explanation for what occurred and why she resigned.
Reece told CBS4, "I'm disappointed someone leaked internal documents." He said, "They (City Attorney's Office) make accusations that don't include context."
Reisdorph did not respond to emailed inquiries from CBS4.
In disciplinary documents, administrators with the City Attorney's Office referred to the regular communications as "unprofessional and inappropriate."
When a Black female attorney named Kimberly resigned from her job with the City Attorney's Office, the group named their online chat group "Kimberly Killers" and reveled in the woman's apparent "nervous breakdown."
Learning of what happened, Bush wrote to the others, "That's the best news I've heard since quarantine. I feel so satisfied by this. I've been humming all morning."
She then sent a message with a gif patting herself on the back. Reisdorph responded, "You can't take credit for that all on your own. We pushed her too far... we sent her into a nervous breakdown." Bush boasted, "Because really, this is our doing." Administrators in the City Attorneys Office termed the conversations "racially insensitive."
John Crone, an employment attorney in Denver, reviewed materials obtained by CBS4 and called the internal communications "egregious... clear misconduct." Crone said it was baffling that three lawyers in the City Attorney's Office could act so foolishly.
"You really got to assume everything you're saying and writing is being watched or is capable of being reviewed later down the road so this was incredibly stupid," said Crone.
He said it was clear the extraneous conversations wasted taxpayer dollars, "It's tone-deaf and incredibly irresponsible."
He said the online cheering after a coworker resigned due to a possible mental health issue was "callous and it's cruel. It has no place in city government. Denver should be a model employer."
In online chatter, both Reece and Bush admitted to unauthorized criminal history searches. Reece said he allowed his son to look up his wife's criminal history and Bush admitted an unauthorized search of a law school classmate's criminal history. The City Attorney's Office called the misuse of the court database "serious" but an "isolated, one-time act'."
The conduct of the three prosecutors was discovered after one of them inadvertently included a supervisor in one of their online conversations. That led to a disciplinary investigation with Reece and Bush resigning before the investigation into their behavior was completed.
The conduct of these three city attorneys emerges shortly after the top city attorney at Denver International Airport, Scott McCoy, resigned following an incident at a December holiday party in which he was accused of slapping a subordinate.
At one point, according to a disciplinary letter, Reisdorph emailed Reece and Bush concerned about their online behavior.
"Is there any way that the City can get a copy of these chats?" she wrote. "If they keep these logs, wouldn't they be subject to CORA (Colorado Open Records Act)? Can we set the chat to purge? Not worried about you two but suddenly feeling a little exposed."
According to internal city records, following that communication, the three prosecutors continued their online communications for several more months.
Full statement from City Attorney Kristin Bronson: "The City Attorney's Office was both appalled and extremely disappointed by the misconduct of these three attorneys. Their actions in no way reflected the values of this office, our dedication to this great city or the culture of diversity, equity, racial equality and inclusivity that we strive to achieve every day. We acted promptly to investigate their actions and initiate disciplinary proceedings. Two of the attorneys resigned prior to any discipline being imposed. The other attorney was suspended without pay and has since made a remarkable turnaround in terms of becoming a stellar employee and a trusted and supportive colleague."
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