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Aurora, Colorado, Councilwoman Danielle Jurinsky believed earlier this year she was facing an isolated “political attack” after she was placed under investigation for an allegation she inappropriately touched her own toddler.
Months later, not only was she cleared by investigators of any wrongdoing, but she discovered dozens of other parents in the area were allegedly targeted by a social worker who reportedly worked to separate families with phony accusations.
“Had this not happened to me, this would still be going on. This was not an isolated incident. In the beginning, I felt very much like it was a political attack,” Councilwoman Danielle Jurinsky told Originol Digital in a phone interview on Thursday.
“I’ve since found out this is absolutely not an isolated incident. [Former Arapahoe DHS employee Robin Niceta] has been doing this for years,” she argued.
Jurinsky first encountered the name Robin Niceta, a former social worker for the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services, in April when she was called to the Arapahoe Sheriff’s office, she said. The councilwoman had already been cleared in an investigation alleging she had sexually molested her 2-year-old son – a claim that was reported on an anonymous tip line.
The tip was made on Jan. 28, one day after the councilwoman went on a radio show to speak out against then-Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson, describing the city’s top cop as “trash” who needed to be ousted. Jurinsky, an outspoken supporter of police, said during the interview that Aurora is “not safe,” pointing to dozens of shootings that month, a staffing shortage of police officers, and a police chief who allegedly threw “police officers under the bus.”
The issues came as police departments across the country dealt with fallout from the defund the police movement in the summer of 2020, with morale among officers plunging and cops leaving the force in droves.
“I campaigned on the issue of rebuilding our police department, we’re not going to defund this police department. We’re going to refund and rebuild this police department,” Jurinsky recounted to Originol Digital. “And I went to find out what the problems are.” She said she spoke with “hundreds of officers” and all signs “pointed to this police chief.”
In her capacity as city councilwoman, she demanded the police chief be fired, she told Originol.
Unbeknownst to her, the police chief was dating Niceta at the time, and Jurinsky was soon facing the allegation against her child. Niceta and the former police chief have since broken up.
The Arapahoe County Department of Human Services launched an investigation soon after and cleared Jurinsky of any wrongdoing. Jurinsky said she believes the false tip was made in retaliation for her critical comment of Wilson.
Wilson was ultimately fired from her job in April following the fallout over the death of Elijah McClain, a young Black man who died during a 2019 police encounter. Aurora’s city manager cited departmental mismanagement and sinking morale among officers for Wilson’s firing.
Originol Digital spoke to Wilson on the phone last Monday, who reiterated she previously published a statement saying she “had nothing to do with the allegations in the affidavit.”
“I want nothing to do with [Niceta],” Wilson said, adding that they are no longer a couple and directing Originol Digital to her attorneys for any further comment.
Niceta resigned from her position as a social worker for the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services in May when accusations mounted against her and she was ultimately arrested on charges of retaliation against an elected official and making a false report.
The arrest affidavit stated the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Department found the tip against Jurinsky was made from Niceta’s personal cell phone and that computer records showed Niceta researched the tip line’s number and Jurinsky’s address, the Gazette reported.
Niceta is now at the heart of grievances by roughly 40 parents in the area who are reporting a pattern of misconduct.
Jurinsky filed a lawsuit last month that is seeking class-action status to bring justice to the families who allege Niceta used her role as a social worker to tear families apart.
The lawsuit names Arapahoe County Department of Human Services’ Division of Child and Adult Protection Services, a division manager of the department, Niceta, in her capacity as a former employee of the department, and the Arapahoe County Board of County Commissioners as defendants.
The lawsuit argues that through the defendants’ activities and conduct, “dozens, if not hundreds (or more) Arapahoe County families have been torn apart, sometimes permanently, on the basis of constitutionally improper investigations, false sworn testimony by Arapahoe County employees, fabricated evidence introduced by Arapahoe County employees in both investigatory and judicial proceedings, and a downright inexplicable, unfounded, and unjust desire to separate or attempt to separate children from their parents or other caretakers.”
The former social worker is accused of making sexual advances toward women she was actively investigating in her role as a social worker, and trying to separate children from those women’s families if her advances were spurned, according to the lawsuit.
“According to the client, Niceta said that she had gift cards to provide to the mother when she went and visited her child, gave her personal cell phone number and asked her to come to her personal residence to pick up the gift cards. When she arrived there, Niceta invited the target of this investigation into her house, offering her an alcoholic beverage,” Elliot Singer, the lawyer who prepared the lawsuit, said last month. “Once this member of the class declined what was clearly sexual advances, Niceta essentially turned on her and did everything in her power to make sure the child was permanently removed.”
A spokesperson for Arapahoe County told Originol Digital county leaders are “equally appalled and concerned as our community is about the alleged criminal actions of Robin Niceta.”
“There are many checks and balances within the child protection system to weed out false allegations. We have confidence in our ability to protect children from abuse and neglect in our County, and at the same time to preserve the rights of parents and guarantee due process. All allegations of abuse and neglect of children are fully evaluated and investigated by multiple layers of human services, educational, medical, mental health, and legal professionals, in accordance with State laws and regulations,” the spokesperson said.
“When disputes arise during these investigations, all parties have the right to have their case heard by a judge or jury, and also to appeal. There also is a State-prescribed process for reviewing complaints we receive about closed cases, and we act upon the conclusions of those evaluations as needed.”
The county said it has not yet reviewed all the allegations in the recent complaints and argued “that many of them draw conclusions without citing factual specifics.” The spokesperson added that the county is “not aware of any evidence of widespread misconduct by the caseworkers and other professionals within the Arapahoe County Human Services Department, despite what is alleged in the complaints.”
Niceta was also named in a federal lawsuit filed on Aug. 14 that accuses her and other employees of the Arapahoe County DHS of separating a 14-year-old deaf Muslim girl from her family “based only on deliberate cultural assumptions and bias.”
The teenager was reportedly removed after her American Sign Language interpreter reported to social services officials that the girl was allegedly being sexually abused by her 21-year-old cousin and the family planned to send her back to Africa to be stoned, the Denver Post reported.
The girl was separated for one year before the courts allowed her back home with her family.
“At the time of the removal, Niceta either falsely reported that she obtained verbal authorization from the court to remove the child or illegally obtained verbal authorization from the court, by stating that the child needed to be separated from her family due to Niceta’s own perceptions of their behavior,” that lawsuit said, according to the Denver Post.
The Gazette reported that Niceta is also allegedly facing an FBI investigation on whether she used her position as a caseworker to gain custody of a former partner’s child and filed a false police report against the former partner.
“Except in rare circumstances, the FBI cannot confirm or deny the existence of an investigation,” the FBI told Originol Digital when asked to confirm the investigation. “In general, when we do get involved, we consider the facts of a situation to determine whether there is a possible federal criminal violation. Such a review does not necessarily result in the opening of an investigation. When an investigation is warranted and it is determined a federal law appears to have been violated, those results are forwarded to the appropriate US Attorney’s Office, which decides whether or not to move forward with charges.”
A representative for the FBI added that if a review conducted by the agency finds no federal violations, the case can be referred to local law enforcement departments. During such reviews conducted by the FBI, numerous people can be interviewed, but the agency does not confirm nor deny particular contacts to protect their privacy.
Jurinsky told Originol Digital that she had also been contacted by the FBI over the reported investigation, but was unsure of the “scope of their investigation.”
Niceta’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment from Originol Digital.
Jurinsky told Originol Digital that she believes the allegations against DHS are part of a “nationally systemic” issue.
“A lot of these folks that have had their children taken, they’re put under automatic gag orders. So they’re not even allowed to start talking about it,” Jurinsky said.
“Communities absolutely need to be aware of this. And the people that I see targeted mostly are our poorer communities. And this is simply not okay,” Jurinsky said. “Elected officials at every level of government, across the nation, need to be aware of this … and start making this a priority. We need national legislation.”