United States District Court, D. Colorado
OPINION AND ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY
S. Krieger Chief United States District Judge
MATTER comes before the Court on the Defendants'
Motion for Summary Judgment (## 49,
50), the Plaintiff's Response
(## 57, 59), and the
Defendants' Reply (# 61); and the
Plaintiff's Motion to Restrict Access to Certain Exhibits
(# 60). For the following reasons, the
Motion for Summary Judgment is granted and the Motion to
Restrict is granted, in part.
Court exercises jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
employed by the Steamboat Springs Police Department (SSPD),
Plaintiff Kristin Bantle applied to be a deputy sheriff in
the Defendant Routt County Sheriff's Office. Her
application included a Personal History Statement, which was
marked confidential in caps and adorned with asterisks.
Question 9-6 of the statement asked whether Ms. Bantle had
ever used “marijuana or any controlled substance
(including amphetamines, barbiturates, hallucinogenic,
hashish, cocaine, opiates, etc.) without a doctor's
prescription”. Ex. C, # 49-3 at 19. Ms. Bantle stated
that she had used cannabis a half dozen times in college. She
had actually used cannabis and other drugs during college, in
addition to cocaine and cannabis after college. Nevertheless,
she certified at the conclusion of the statement that such
information was true, complete, and correct to the best of
Ms. Bantle submitted her application, the Sheriff's
Office required that she participate in polygraph and
psychological examinations. Before the polygraph exam, Ms.
Bantle completed a Pre-Employment Questionnaire detailing her
drug history, stating that she last used cannabis at
Christmas, cocaine the previous summer, and ecstasy in
college. The polygraph examiner discussed Ms. Bantle's
drug use before performing the polygraph exam. In that
discussion, she gave the examiner information about her
entire drug history that she did not include on the
Pre-Employment Questionnaire; specifically, it was revealed
that Ms. Bantle had used LSD mushrooms in college. In
connection with the psychological exam, Ms. Bantle completed
a Life History Questionnaire in which she stated she had not
used cannabis for more than 20 years and had never used any
illegal drug other than cannabis. She certified at the
conclusion of the questionnaire that this information was
true, accurate, and complete.
days after the examinations, Undersheriff Ray Birch wrote to
Ms. Bantle informing her that she failed the background-check
portion of the application process. Undersheriff Birch
informed Ms. Bantle that she failed because of her drug use
and dishonesty on the Life History Questionnaire. Ms. Bantle
inquired what would happen to the information about her drug
history contained in her employment application. Undersheriff
Birch told her it would go into a confidential file reachable
only by court order or subpoena. Defendant Sheriff Garrett
Wiggins was concerned about Ms. Bantle's drug use and
admissions and sought to inform the SSPD, but decided not to
on the advice of counsel.
years later, while still employed by the SSPD, Ms. Bantle was
working as the school resource officer for a local high
school. Sheriff Wiggins became concerned about Ms.
Bantle's presence at the school when his son, a middle
school student, told him about her use of profane language.
Sheriff Wiggins wrote an email to Chief Jerry DeLong and
Captain Jerry Stabile of the SSPD, expressing these concerns.
The email included this passage:
As a side note; several years ago Officer Bantel [sic]
applied with our agency and during the background phase
something was discovered that was VERY disturbing to me and
U.S. Birch. This discovery immediately terminated her as an
applicant and we pondered whether or not we should inform you
of these circumstances. We did not know if this information
would be considered as “Protected” or not so we
checked with our legal counsel. Our attorney advised us that
in order to avoid a potential law suit we should not inform
you of this finding. To this day, we have said nothing but it
has been mentally troubling for both Ray and I to keep this
info from you. As much as I would like to inform you, I
cannot and will not give you the details but having this
knowledge gives me concern for her serving not only as a [law
enforcement officer] but more so as a [school resource
officer]. I tried to not allow this personal knowledge
interfere with keeping an open mind about her service as a
[law enforcement officer] but the recent reports of possible
inappropriate behavior has [sic] given me new concern.
Ex. I, # 49-9 at 2. Based on the contents of the email,
Captain Stabile responded that he had initiated an
investigation into Ms. Bantle's behavior.
DeLong met with Sheriff Wiggins to get more information about
his concerns. Sheriff Wiggins was “very vague” in
elaborating, but stated that “Steamboat is well-known
for its powder.” Ex. H, # 49-8 at 31:5-9. This, Chief
DeLong understood to mean that Ms. Bantle had admitted to
cocaine use. As a consequence, he initiated an outside
criminal investigation into Ms. Bantle's possible
weeks later, the Routt County District Attorney served a
search warrant on the Sheriff's Office and obtained Ms.
Bantle's employment application file. The officer heading
the investigation found information suggesting that Ms.
Bantle had violated SSPD policy by using cocaine and cannabis
while employed as an officer. Based on this investigation,
Chief DeLong recommended that Ms. Bantle's employment
with the SSPD be terminated. The Steamboat Springs city
manager adopted and implemented the recommendation, and Ms.
Bantle's employment with the SSPD was terminated.
action, Ms. Bantle brings a claim against the Sheriff's
Office and Sheriff Wiggins in his official capacity for
deprivation of Fourth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, and the following claims against the Sheriff's
Office and Sheriff Wiggins in his official and individual
capacity: (1) malicious prosecution, (2) intentional