Anatomy of a smear

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Page at first expected the investigation to wrap itself up in a matter of weeks. "The pressure was off after my interviews. Then I didn't hear anything. I started worrying again and started getting sick again, thinking, 'What are they coming up with now?'" The detective's investigative notes indicate he was trying from early May until mid-June to obtain the Pages' checking-account records from their bank.

Reading like a spreadsheet of any middle-class household, the records show the Pages living paycheck-to-paycheck, running through Robin's roughly $3,000-a-month after-tax salary with mortgage payments and debit-card purchases at places like Target, the Mesquite Wal-Mart, Kroger, and Walgreen's. "Yep, that's us," says Jim Page. "It hurt to know these people were knee-deep in our finances, trying to wipe Robin out."

Unknown until it was revealed later in an open records request, the police department's money laundering unit had actually begun investigating Page as early as February, two months before the official public integrity investigation was launched.

A notice addressed to "All Area Banks" alerted them to a "legitimate law enforcement inquiry" focusing on Page and her husband. The investigation's contact, the letter said, was detective Crista Walker with DPD's money laundering unit. Dated February 18, it requested all area financial institutions to provide "information regarding savings accounts, checking accounts, safety deposit boxes, CDs, IRAs" or any other deposits or accounts owned by the Pages.

Walker, contacted at the money laundering unit earlier this month, said, "I don't know anything about that [the Page] investigation." When informed that her name appears on the February 18 document, as well as on a raft of other documents related to police acquisition of the Pages' financial records through court-issued subpoenas, Walker replied, "No comment" and refused to answer further questions.

Walker's bank alert shows the cops -- acting outside established rules for investigation of city employees -- were trying to rifle through the bank accounts of a city lawyer, on their own authority, as early as mid-February. "When I saw that," says Page. "I nearly threw up on my desk."

Page's new boss, City Attorney Madeleine Johnson, learned in a short letter in late June that the investigation of Robin Page had concluded. "There were no criminal violations discovered and the investigation has now been closed," the cops informed her. She called in Page for a meeting.

"I go into that meeting thinking, it's over and she's gonna say, 'So sorry you had to go through this,'" Page recalls.

Instead, Johnson informed her that an administrative investigation was about to commence and told her she was giving her the "opportunity to resign." Page says she replied, "absolutely not," and asked Johnson what she was being accused of now. "She told me I'd know what the investigation was over."

Two weeks later, that investigation was complete. Without allowing Page to address the specifics, Johnson presented her a letter with a list of dates on which she either arrived to the S.A.F.E. team offices an hour or so late or left early. Page would be reassigned to prosecution -- the entry-level job she had left in 1993.

"I got the feeling that now that I was marked, somebody was going to find something wrong with me," says Page. One way or another she was going to be blamed for the S.A.F.E. team's screwups. "I got that impression. But I wasn't in charge of anyone at S.A.F.E. I tried to tell them what to do, but they preferred to operate their way."

The worst thing was that once Page was allowed back into her office to obtain her personal calendar and one from the special ordinance court, she could readily explain why she wasn't in the S.A.F.E. team offices. She was working in court, or meeting with other prosecutors preparing cases, on the vast majority of those days, the calendar records show.

Page says the S.A.F.E. team time log -- which itself is highly unusual because the police were not responsible for keeping her time -- was accepted as gospel by Johnson. Never mind that the source was the same unit that had just tried to send her to prison with fictitious allegations of felony crimes. In the last city attorney's office performance evaluation Page had seen, in October 1998, her attendance and work dedication were evaluated as "good," and her overall evaluation between "good" and "excellent."

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Thomas Korosec
Contact: Thomas Korosec