Lucy Neyens Asks: Is My Case Closed?

The APD sexual-misconduct case remains in official limbo.

Lucy Neyens still awaits word on the outcome of her complaint against  APD Detective Howard Staha.
Lucy Neyens still awaits word on the outcome of her complaint against APD Detective Howard Staha.

Will the Lucy Neyens case ever be resolved? It's been more than nine months since Neyens first complained to the Office of the Police Monitor about the Austin Police Department's handling of an investigation into her allegation that APD Detective Howard Staha forced her to perform oral sex in exchange for continued police protection for her son, a former police confidential informant. It's been more than seven months since Neyens presented her case to the OPM's citizens review panel. And it's been more than four months since the Chronicle obtained a confidential memo from APD Chief Stan Knee to Staha, where Knee informs the veteran detective that he had engaged in improper conduct with Neyens -- herself a law enforcement officer, and the wife of another APD detective.

Still, after all this time, Neyens has yet to get any final word on the resolution of her complaint. According to the OPM's Web site, upon resolution of a complaint filed with that office, "the complainant will be notified in writing of the outcome" of the case. But Neyens says that she's never received any written notification about the resolution of her complaint -- and is uncertain if her case has ever been closed.

Neyens' complaint was first filed with APD's Internal Affairs Division back in January 2002, but it was a full year before she received a written response from the department, notifying her that the case was closed, the outcome "inconclusive." Neyens filed a complaint with the OPM in March 2003 and presented her case to the review panel on May 19. Nearly a month later, the panel recommended that Knee review the case for several potential policy violations.

In August, a police spokesman told the Chronicle that Knee had not yet made any decision on the case. But in mid-August the Chronicle obtained a copy of a confidential memo penned by Knee, informing Staha that it was "evident that you violated two General Order Policies," including the mandate that officers "Obey All Laws." Still, it wasn't clear exactly what that letter was -- a written reprimand or just an FYI note. After we published that memo (see, "Staha Sex Case: The Story According to Knee," Aug. 15), city officials forked over $5,000 to hire San Antonio-based private investigator Bob Peden to try to figure out where we got the memo. In short, the city appears more concerned with the piece of paper than with its contents.

Of course, it's the content of that paper that concerns Neyens. Despite the apparent slap Staha received from Knee, Neyens has yet to be notified about the status of her case. On Oct. 19, Neyens penned two letters, one to then-interim Police Monitor Al Jenkins and one to Knee, which she sent via certified mail, requesting an official notice on the status of her case. "Is the case still being reviewed?" she asked in her letter to Jenkins. "If this issue has been finalized, as a complainant, I feel I am entitled to such notification."

And to Knee: "It would seem that a professional like yourself would see that every effort is made to ensure thorough investigations of complaints, and inform complainants of final decisions concerning allegations," she wrote. "You have made no response, nor has anyone acting on your behalf."

By mid-November Neyens had yet to hear from either APD or the OPM, so she fired off a second round of letters, also via certified mail. On Dec. 15 Neyens finally got a response from APD Assistant Chief Rick Coy, who thanked her for bringing her complaint forward and asked her if she'd like to meet with him to discuss her case. "That letter from Coy -- that nonresponse response -- is just the same old thing: avoid the subject," she said. "I have a right to know what the final decision was, and they're refusing to give me that. I don't think it's my duty to make an appointment to discuss it, since discussing it hasn't done anything at all." At press time, no meeting time had been scheduled.

And Neyens has yet to hear from the monitor's office, which she said is disconcerting. "I think they're avoiding making a public statement about what decision they've come to," she said. "I don't know what the reasons are, but I'm not real happy with it, especially since the police monitor's complaint form says that the complainant will receive notification, in writing at the conclusion of the case. And that has yet to happen."

According to the OPM Web site, the case was resolved on June 27. Knee "[r]econsidered [the case] as recommended," the OPM reported, and "[f]ound General Order 7.07.26 Operation of City Vehicle after Consuming Alcoholic Beverages and Fail to Obey All Laws, Public Lewdness to have been violated." However, Neyens points out that the information was not posted until last month, despite the June date attached to it. At press time, Jenkins had not returned a phone call requesting comment.

Neyens said that although her confidence in the system is waning, she intends to push the issue. "I have no confidence and no faith in the city, the Police Monitor's Office, and certainly none in the police department at all," she said. "It's just pass-the-buck; let's just keeping making the circle so that nobody has to make any commitments to anything."

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APD, Lucy Neyens, Austin Police Department, Office of the Police Monitor, Citizen Review Panel, Howard Staha, Stan Knee, Al Jenkins, Rick Coy

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