Mel Blumenthal
Columnist
Snowmass Village, CO, Colorado

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December 18, 2012
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Mel Blumenthal: Wading through the governmental muck

I just can't resist adding a bit more enlightenment to the growing number of columns and letters to the editor concerning Basalt's bumbled handling of its police department's internal staff power struggle which recently ended with the resignation of its well-liked and respected police chief.

Starting at the top with their dim-witted mayor and town council members and now their new town manager, they all seem to be running for cover, and in spite of questionable advice from their town attorney they're all beginning to spill their guts with inconsistent and contradictory stories as well as incurring what likely will be significant legal costs to the taxpayers, all in an attempt to protect their rear ends or, as the Brits would say, their soft dangly bits.

As most everyone now knows Basalt's police chief, Rod O'Connor, was quickly suspended following a secret complaint filed by someone in his department. An outside investigation was conducted, but the details of the 42-page investigation report still are being kept secret from the public. However, the town did confirm there was no finding or implication of misconduct of any kind and that Rod's suspension did not involve any investigation(s) into criminal law violations and/or civil rights violations.

Having been publicly embarrassed and unfairly accused by the town's ruling bureaucrats, Rod decided to move on and not continue fighting with them in public. In exchange for walking away quietly he was handed 10 months' salary and accrued vacation pay totaling almost $84,000 of taxpayer money. As the gentleman he is he won't show them up publicly for the incompetents they appear to be.

Not satisfied with the town's secret cover-up, this paper's mothership filed a court motion on Dec. 8 under Colorado's Open Records Act to compel the town to show cause why the report should not be made public. Their oft repeated excuse for not releasing the report - it's a confidential personnel matter - does not hold muster under prior decisions handed down by Colorado courts concerning governmental investigations into official, on-the-job conduct of public officials, including police officers.

Now showing signs of nervousness regarding their prior secrecy excuse, the town has requested that in case the court rules the investigation report is subject to public disclosure they want a ruling in their favor that they're not in breach of their contractual agreements of confidentiality. It's taken a bit of time but it now appears these clowns are beginning to realize the mess they've gotten themselves into and they're starting to run for cover.

In the meantime Mike Scanlon, Basalt's new town manager, announced the town is commencing a nationwide search for a qualified candidate to fill its police chief position. Scanlon is creating a citizen's advisory panel to help qualify and select a candidate. In the Daily News last week Scanlon is quoted saying, "It's very important to engage the citizens when we determine who will fill community policing [jobs]," but I guess it's not important to engage the community when the town wants to fire a respected and well-liked police chief.

Andy Stone in his Aspen Times column last week summed up this contradictory mess best: "The public must be consulted and engaged when we hire our new police chief - but if, one of these days, we decide to kick the guy to the curb - well, then, John Q. Public better shut up and stay out of our way."

Andy ends up postulating that we have no idea whether the town's elected representatives or staff bureaucrats are complete idiots or complete incompetents - I'd say both.

Closer to home there are two upcoming events of special interest to all of us.

From Dec. 25 to Jan. 1 Aspen Film presents the 21st annual edition of Academy Screenings.

This eagerly anticipated annual event, with all screenings this year at the Wheeler Opera House, presents the likely contenders for Oscars, Golden Globes and numerous other critics and guild awards between now and the Academy Awards ceremony on Feb. 24.

The full schedule of films can be accessed at www.aspenfilm.org, and tickets can be purchased in person at the Wheeler Box Office, via phone at 970-920-5770 or online at www.aspenshowtix.com. Since it's likely many of the screenings will sell out prior to showtime I'd recommend ordering your tickets well in advance.

On Dec. 26 the Citizens for Snowmass and the Part-Time Residents Advisory Board will co-host a Community Forum and Q-and-A session featuring a presentation by Dwayne Romero, president of Related Colorado, including an update on what Related has done since reacquiring Base Village and its progress for this ski season.

A key part of this forum is Related's desire to gather input from all full and part-time residents as to what they would like to see included in the plans for Base Village as well as the ultimate rehabilitation and upgrading of the Mall and Snowmass Center. This will be the public's first opportunity to weigh in on these major development projects.

This event will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 26, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in the Snowmass Town Hall. For those who can't be present in the Village for this presentation it will be streamed live and archived on the town's website, www.tosv.com, with the opportunity to submit your questions in advance or during the forum at secondview@earthlink.net.

The snow is falling and happily I'm back in residence for the winter season. You can catch me live and in living color at Fuel, the Snowmass Bakery and Starbucks when it opens or as always at secondview@earthlink.net.


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The Aspen Times Updated Dec 18, 2012 06:10PM Published Dec 18, 2012 06:07PM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.