Boulder’s rec centers have long been a favorite year-round hangout for the city’s families and for children. As Boulder Weekly discovered during this impressive investigation by Richard Fleming, the East Boulder Recreation Center was, in 1995, likewise a popular hangout for perverts who targeted children.
During the course of his investigation, Fleming discovered a thick file of complaints being maintained by staff at the East Boulder Recreation Center. The file contained complaints by parents, children and employees about the sexually deviant behavior of some patrons at the rec center. Confirming the existence of such a file was disturbing enough, but it paled when compared to what the Weekly found next.
Even more astonishing than the file of complaints describing how grown men had been seen at the rec center doing everything from stalking children, attempting to get into shower stalls with them, exposing themselves, peeping under stalls and even masturbating while watching minors in the pool and hot tub, was the discovery that the city had not taken action based on these complaints. In addition to failing to remove the suspects in these complaints from the rec center, city officials had actually threatened to fire concerned employees, who simply wanted to warn the public.
Lee Juhl, who managed the city’s pools until he resigned in August 1995, told the Weekly, “Parks and rec management has resisted taking steps to alert patrons to the threat of pedophiles at East due to fiscal reasons — they don’t want to risk scaring people away from the rec centers.”
A concerned mother whose young son had been the victim of a peeping tom summed it up this way: “Do you have to have somebody molested before they think it’s something to worry about?”
Boulder Weekly felt the resounding answer to that question should be, “No!” And apparently the city at least partially agreed. After the story was published, the city reevaluated its policies and took several steps to protect children at its rec centers from the perverts who preyed upon them. The city also agreed to notify law enforcement when such complaints are filed in the future. Yet, despite evidence on videotapes, eyewitness accounts and the statements by former city employees, the City of Boulder never took a single action against any of the employees who had ordered the irresponsible and dangerous cover-up of these incidents.
“I remember the sensation this story created, and I wasn’t yet working for Boulder Weekly,” said former Weekly Editor Pamela White in 2003. “I was aghast that public employees could abuse the public trust by trying to cover up something so serious and was grateful the word was out.”