Sheriff’s Office probes unchaperoned teen dance

For the third time in the past two months, allegations have surfaced about alcohol and possible drug use by Aspen High School students.

The latest incident occurred March 7 at a high school club party at Bumps at the base of Buttermilk, where Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies found strong evidence of alcohol use and possible evidence of cocaine consumption, according to reports.

A uniformed sheriff’s deputy, whose daughter hosted the party, was supposed to be present that night, but had been reassigned to attend a training session, Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said Friday. Deputy Michael Buglione should have found another deputy to attend the event in his place but didn’t, he said.

Police reports also indicate that parent chaperones for the party didn’t show up either.

“Any failure from anyone who works for me is my failure,” DiSalvo said Friday. “I own this. I’m sorry and embarrassed. I expect people in my organization to perform better.”

Buglione, a department veteran, declined to comment on the incident Friday.

Aspen High School’s H2O Club sponsored and organized the dance March 7 at Bumps, according to a Pitkin County Sheriff’s report. The party began at 8 p.m., and an hour later about 80 high school students were in attendance, the report states.

An Aspen Skiing Co. employee working at Bumps that night told a Sheriff’s Office investigator she noticed there was no adult supervision at the event.

“(She) told me there were supposed to be adult chaperones and a uniformed Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office deputy on scene, however no other adults arrived,” according to the report.

So between 9:30 and 10 p.m., the Skico employee and a colleague “started walking laps through and around the Bumps building to check on the kids,” the report states.

They discovered an intoxicated girl in the women’s bathroom and tried to help her, then called deputies to come to the facility for a walk-through “as it was suspected (that) juveniles were using illegal substances and alcohol,” according to a deputy’s report.

The girl found in the bathroom took an Uber home with her girlfriends, the report states.

However, when Deputy Anthony Todaro arrived at Bumps about 10:30 p.m., he encountered another young party-goer.

“I stopped to wait for (a fellow deputy) to walk up when I noticed a female vomiting out the passenger window of a silver Lexus SUV parked directly beside me,” Todaro wrote.

Todaro pulled the car over, discovered the driver was sober and took the intoxicated girl to the Sheriff’s Office to meet with the agency’s juvenile investigator. She was later issued a citation for minor in possession of alcohol, according to the report.

The next morning, a Sheriff’s Office detective located a “smaller, Zip-Loc plastic bag commonly used to hold illicit drugs” that contained “white grains of some type” in a sanitary disposal container in one of the stalls.

No other evidence of drug use was seen by Skico employees or found by investigators, according to the report. DiSalvo said Friday the baggie hadn’t yet been tested and noted that investigators have no way of knowing when it was disposed of or by whom.

On Monday, the investigator watched surveillance video from the high school dance of four girls and a boy passing around a soda bottle.

“The manner in which the group shared the contents of the bottle is not what I would expect if the liquid inside was soda,” according to the report.

After the party, investigators also found an empty vodka bottle, soda bottles that smelled of alcohol, an unlocked beer cooler and hard liquor storage that was easy to access, according to the report.

High school students were charged in January with breaking into a downtown lodge and stealing alcohol, as well as vandalizing another hotel. An Aspen High School senior and his parents were charged earlier this week with allowing minors to drink alcohol in their home, and providing cocaine to one underage high school student.

Tharyn Mulberry, Aspen High School principal, said Friday he hasn’t seen a recent increase in alcohol or drug use on campus.

“I think it’s an unfortunate concentration of events,” he said. “Student data indicates there is not an increase (of alcohol or drug consumption) at school.”

Mulberry also pointed out that the Bumps dance was not a school-sanctioned event, though the H2O Club is an official Aspen High club, he said. He said he wasn’t sure of the exact purpose of the H2O Club.

“This is something we always take very seriously here at school,” he said. “(The recent events) are prompting us to have a dialog with all our students.”