AURORA, Colo. — Former Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson, who was fired in April, has put the city and almost every elected city councilmember on notice of a potential legal battle.
King & Greisen LLC, the firm representing Wilson, filed a notice of claim on Sept. 23 against the city, which is a prerequisite before Wilson can officially bring a lawsuit.
Wilson is alleging her termination was the result of a conspiracy to get rid of her and a violation of her civil rights and a violation of public policy.
The notice of claim names the city along with Mayor Mike Coffman, city council members Danielle Jurinsky and Dustin Zvonek, and City Manager Jim Twombly, among others.
Wilson was terminated on April 6 over what Twombly said were concerns about her overall management and leadership of the department. Wilson had been with the department for 25 years and was selected as the interim chief on Jan. 1, 2020, after Chief Nick Metz retired. She was named to the position permanently later that year.
Her termination came after the city and the department agreed in September of 2021 to enter into a consent decree based on a report from Attorney General Phil Weiser, alleging excessive force and racially biased police practices.
In the claim, Wilson alleges that the city and police union officials conspired to fire her because she refused to stop enforcing the consent decree. Wilson claims that Jurinsky and Zvonek pressured Twombly to terminate her because of her “strong commitment” to reforming the department, Wilson alleges in the claim.
The former chief said in the claim that she was tasked with reforming the department and restoring public trust, especially among members of the Black community. However, she alleges those efforts were thwarted and she was discriminated against because of her “association with people of color.” She also said her termination was retaliation for “her associations and actions to protect members of Aurora’s Black community,” the claim read.
In the claim, Wilson brings up the current chief selection process that Aurora has been struggling with for the past several months. Last month, the city announced it will continue with its search for a new police chief and will not currently move forward with the two finalists named in September.
Wilson points out that those finalists are white men despite that “one-third of applicants were people of color or women,” the claim read.
In a statement to Denver7, Ryan Luby, a spokesperson for the City of Aurora, said Wilson was not illegally terminated. Luby said Wilson received a termination of employment letter where it states she was fired for "failure to strategically review, assess, manage, and provide efficient oversight to the overall police department operations.”
"Additionally, contrary to the assertion that Ms. Wilson was “illegally terminated for her actions to enforce the terms of the consent decree,” we have always maintained that the consent decree is the path forward, and we remain engaged in ongoing public safety changes and continue to make progress on the consent decree and with the Consent Decree Monitor. In fact, the Consent Decree Monitor team documented that progress as recently as Oct. 15 on their website. [auroramonitor.org] City management is unwavering in the commitment to fulfill the terms of the consent decree to ensure that the Aurora Police Department serves every member of our community equitably," Luby said in the statement.
It's unclear when or if a lawsuit will be filed.