AURORA, Colo. — Arapahoe County released a report of the investigation into its Department of Human Services, after a false accusation of child abuse was made against Aurora Councilwoman Danielle Jurinsky last year.
The accusation was allegedly made anonymously by former caseworker Robin Niceta, who was then dating former Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson. Niceta pleaded not guilty in December of last year.
The report, which was released Friday by Arapahoe County, summarizes findings of a investigation into the county DHS and its processes involving child welfare cases.
According to the report, there were no “pervasive” issues relating to the protection of children, and no “systemic concerns” of falsification of documents. Still, one caseworker was fired for falsifying contacts, according to the report, and four others were fired for “personal or performance issues.” Those terminations are in addition to the firing of Niceta.
The report points to new “oversight structures” in place to “identify and address” problems with caseworker behavior.
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Jurinsky isn’t satisfied, however. She and her attorneys held a press conference Monday in Aurora — outside DHS offices — claiming the report whitewashes systemic problems within the department. They were joined by other people who claim to have been wronged by DHS.
“I do believe that there are good people doing good work,” Jurinsky said of DHS. “But I think that they’re probably overrun. That’s what I think. And all it takes is a couple bad apples to ruin it for everybody and start tearing families apart.”
Jurinsky and her attorneys are working with state legislators to review DHS practices, they said, and are calling for an independent state audit of Arapahoe County DHS. They also suggested an end to qualified immunity protections for social workers in Colorado.
“This state took away qualified immunity for police officers,” Jurinsky said. “Why do [social workers] have qualified immunity? They’re committing crimes, too.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Arapahoe County defended the investigation and report.
“Arapahoe County stands behind the results of the third-party independent investigation into its human services processes,” said Anders Nelson, public information officer. “As a result of the 2022 investigation into former caseworker Robin Niceta, the Colorado Department of Human Services determined a wider and deeper investigation was needed and the third-party review was initiated. That investigation determined there are no systemic issues with the department.”
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When asked about the ongoing case and criminal charges against Niceta, Jurinsky said she is “still hoping for justice” and made a dig against Niceta’s claims of a brain tumor diagnosis. Prosecutors said she appeared to have made up the diagnosis and medical documents.
“I’m glad she’s better,” Jurinsky said. “I’m glad she’s not dying anymore, because I really do want to get to court.”
Niceta’s trial is scheduled to begin August 1.