CLARK COUNTY, NV – Five current and former Clark County School District police officers asked the district attorney’s office Thursday to investigate allegations of wrongdoing against an internal affairs investigator.
Most of the allegations stem from comments made by the investigator, Christopher Klemp, during a secretly recorded December 2014 conversation with another officer who was working undercover for the FBI at the time to expose corruption within the school district police department.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal disclosed the contents of the tape, which surfaced earlier this month, in a Sunday story raising new concerns about a longstanding toxic culture at the police department that prompted at least four officers to cooperate with the FBI.
The concerns stem from a 2009 party that allowed underage drinking and was attended by police employees. A young drunken driver who left the party struck and killed UNLV honors student Angela Peterson. Since then, whistleblowers within the school police department have been fighting to expose an alleged cover-up of the presence of officers amid the illegal conduct.
Attorney Adam Levine, who represents the 138-member school district police union, delivered a seven-page letter with hundreds of pages of supporting documents to District Attorney Steve Wolfson on Thursday. The letter accuses Klemp of crimes tied to his duties as the school police department’s lone internal affairs investigator.
“Detective Klemp has boasted on the tape about having friends in high places at the school district,” Levine said. “In our view this requires that the allegations be investigated by an outside agency such as the district attorney.”
The crimes alleged in the letter include perjury, suborning perjury, coercion and oppression under color of law.
“It’s a sensitive case with a lot of players, and it will be reviewed very carefully by my office,” Wolfson said.
The district attorney said Levine provided him with documentation that is “quite voluminous.”
Levine said that because Klemp also boasted about his working relationship with the FBI as an internal investigator, a courtesy copy of the letter would be given to the Las Vegas FBI’s public corruption squad. An investigation by Klemp led to the federal indictment last month of James Lescinsky, a school district police officer, on excessive force charges.
School Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky said last week that the district partnered with Las Vegas police in an internal investigation into the allegations swirling around Klemp’s statements on the tape.
A Las Vegas police spokesman said Thursday he could not confirm or deny that his department had been asked to assist with a school district investigation of Klemp.
Klemp declined to comment Thursday and, when pressed further, hung up on a reporter.
Capt. Ken Young, the spokesman for the school district police department, had little to say about the officers’ request for the district attorney to investigate Klemp.
“If that’s the desire they have, they’re more than welcome to pursue that avenue,” he said. “They can make their complaint to whoever they want to.”
Among the five officers who signed the letter were three who have cooperated with the FBI over the years in an attempt to ferret out wrongdoing within the school police department — Dan Burgess, Mike Thomas and John Maier.
Burgess, a former lieutenant, and Thomas, a former officer and police union vice president, have been trying to expose the alleged cover-up of the presence of officers at the 2009 party involving underage drinking.
The two former officers, who are fighting to get their jobs back, contend they were fired because of skewed investigations by Klemp aimed at retaliating against them.
Maier, who remains at the school police department, secretly taped the Dec. 18, 2014, conversation with Klemp at a local Starbucks. The tape and transcript surfaced June 1 during Burgess’ arbitration hearing to get his job back. Two days later Klemp was reassigned.
Maier testified at the arbitration hearing and provided the tape to Burgess, who made a transcript. Maier has declined to comment.
According to a copy of the recording and a 132-page transcript of the meeting obtained by the Review-Journal, Klemp is accused of violating department policy by revealing to Maier details of an internal investigation of Burgess and another officer and instructing Maier to blame the leak on Thomas or face retribution from Klemp.
“This is completely off the record,” Klemp told Maier. “If you were ever to say anything, I would have to call you a liar.
“Unfortunately, in my position I’m not technically allowed to tell anyone anything … which is why you can’t ever ask me for anything again and we can’t ever discuss cases again.”
In the letter to the district attorney, the officers alleged the tape shows that Klemp not only improperly disclosed the internal investigation of Burgess, but also showed his bias against Burgess and “repeatedly attempted” to get Maier to “frame” Thomas and the police union as the leak.
The officers also pointed to alleged wrongdoing by Klemp stemming from a 2014 internal excessive force investigation of another officer, Jason Martin, who is among those who signed the letter.
According to the letter, Klemp was dishonest and suppressed evidence favorable to Martin during arbitration proceedings in Martin’s bid to overturn a written reprimand.
The arbitrator eventually tossed out the reprimand.
Skorkowsky indicated last week that allegations of wrongdoing by Klemp in the Martin case were not substantiated.
Union leaders were told by Skorkowsky last year that Las Vegas police would be investigating the allegations against Klemp in the Martin case, but no investigation was conducted and the matter instead was handled internally by the school district’s attorneys, the letter to Wolfson said.
School district officials have remained silent on the allegations involving the dysfunctional department that they are charged with overseeing.
Linda Young, president of the Clark County School Board, declined to comment on the allegations surrounding Klemp and the school police department, citing a pending investigation.
District A Trustee Deanna Wright, who faces a re-election challenge this fall, and District G Trustee Erin Cranor also declined to comment.
“There is an investigation underway, and I am not going to disrupt that in any way,” Wright said Tuesday.