Final as it seemed, the separation agreement never envisioned a person like Kyle Strunk. A private investigator and fiscal hawk, he would not rest until McNaughton’s lie was exposed. The website for Flatirons Private Investigations describes Strunk as a retired military intelligence officer who speaks Arabic and German. According to his biography, Strunk maintains a secret security clearance, and his two decades of sleuthing have sent him to the Middle East, Oceania, and Asia.
But the assignment that has most animated Strunk of late started closer to home, near his Broomfield, Colo., headquarters. In Strunk’s telling, Stacey McNaughton first contacted him to ask if the private investigator would surveil her ex-husband when their children were visiting him in Fort Collins. Strunk says he never did that particular snooping. But he took a keen interest in what he learned about Brian McNaughton, a public-university professor who had defrauded the taxpayers of Colorado and seemed to have gotten away with it.
This was just the sort of thing that got a rise out of Strunk and his buddies, a group known as the Colorado Society of Private Investigators.
“We investigate public corruption,” Strunk says, “and this kind of met that test.”
This past spring, Strunk sent a records request to Colorado State for correspondence related to McNaughton. What he found angered him. This wasn’t some employment dispute that could be quietly worked out by lawyers, he concluded; it was felony forgery. But that crime, Strunk was convinced, had been swept under the rug by the university.
The records Strunk obtained, including a recorded phone call, showed that Jason Dobbins, a detective with the university police, believed he had an “open and shut” case of identity theft and forgery against McNaughton. But the police appeared to sit on the case for 10 months, during which time McNaughton negotiated with the university as if the criminal matter had been shelved.
It was only after Strunk and others mounted a campaign, pressuring public officials to bring the hammer down on McNaughton, that the university police referred the case to the Larimer County district attorney.
“The whole state of Colorado,” Strunk says, “was flooded with letters saying, ‘This person did this; why aren’t you doing anything about it?’ ”So that explains it: Professor McNaughton had the bad luck of having someone find out about his forgery, and that person implemented a campaign of pressure on the parties that could do something: the university police and the Larimer County DA.