Afﬁdavit gives glimpse into Basalt police chief’s resignation
Ryan Summerlin December 7, 2012
BASALT – Basalt Police Chief Roderick O’Connor’s resignation Nov. 23 followed an investigation into the internal administration of the Police Department and how employees there got along, Town Manager Mike Scanlon disclosed in an affidavit this week.
Scanlon, who became the town manager this week, said in the sworn statement that an investigative report commissioned by the town wasn’t triggered by allegations of criminal activity or civil-rights violations. The relationship between the Police Department and public wasn’t at issue.
“The Report relates only to the internal administration of the Police Department and relationships of employees within the Department,” Scanlon said in his statement.
The affidavit is part of a developing legal battle between The Aspen Times and the town of Basalt over the release of the investigative report. An attorney for The Aspen Times has informed the town that it intends to file a lawsuit to try to gain access to the report according to the Colorado Open Records Act.
After receiving a complaint of an unknown nature about O’Connor in October, the Basalt town government hired the Mountain States Employers Council to conduct an impartial investigation. O’Connor was placed on administrative, paid leave the week of Oct. 8.
Mountain States produced a 42-page report on its investigation. The town says that report is confidential because it is part of O’Connor’s personnel file. In addition, when O’Connor resigned, his settlement with the town included an agreement that the report would be kept confidential.
An attorney for The Aspen Times contends that the report cannot be kept from the public.
Scanlon worked with Town Attorney Tom Smith to produce an affidavit stating why Scanlon felt the report should remain confidential. As part of that affidavit, Scanlon provided a glimpse into the report’s contents.
“The report is based exclusively upon interviews with Town employees,” Scanlon’s affidavit said. “These employees provided uninhibited statements of fact and opinion, as to which they expressed fears of criticism.”
Later in the sworn statement, Scanlon said disclosure of the report would discourage self-evaluation of town government departments and discourage employees from raising issues about the performance of their superiors. For those reasons, disclosure of the report would interfere with the functioning of town government, he said.
“It is my conclusion that the contents of the Report are so candid and personal that public disclosure would stifle honest and frank discussion of the internal operations of the Police Department,” Scanlon wrote in the affidavit. “Accordingly, public disclosure of the Report would cause substantial injury to the public interest.”
Aspen Times co-manager Ryan Slabaugh previously said the newspaper believes the public has a right to know the results of the investigation so it can better assess the suspension and ultimate resignation of O’Connor as well as what caused the Town Council to accept his resignation.
O’Connor’s suspension was lifted immediately before his resignation, and no disciplinary action was taken as a result of the investigation, according to a joint statement released by the town and O’Connor. The statement said the police chief resigned “voluntarily.”
Smith said no town official or employee will comment on the matter since it is now in litigation.