Basalt council settles with ex-police chief Roderick O’Connor
The Basalt Town Council decided Tuesday night to honor a settlement package with former police chief Roderick O’Connor, Town Manager Mike Scanlon said.
O’Connor and the town were in a stalemate over the second half of an $83,944 package. O’Connor hired an attorney who specializes in employment issues and demanded that the town make the payment, according to Scanlon.
O’Connor received the package when he resigned on Nov. 22. It included 10 months of pay, compensation for unused vacation time and health coverage for himself and his wife.
O’Connor, who now is an Aspen police officer, received half of the payment when he resigned. The second half was due May 1. The town withheld payment while litigation with The Aspen Times was resolved. The newspaper filed a lawsuit to try to force the town to turn over an investigation into O’Connor’s professional conduct and documents related to his departure. The town claimed that the materials were confidential personnel documents. The Times prevailed in a court battle, in part after it was disclosed that O’Connor shared the investigation report of his conduct with the city of Aspen when he applied to be a policeman there.
Scanlon said the town wouldn’t have fought the court battle with the newspaper had it known O’Connor shared the investigation report. He said the town government contemplated fighting payment of the second half of O’Connor’s package because he shared the report and broke a confidentiality agreement.
The seven-member council met in a closed session for roughly 25 minutes Tuesday to debate whether to make the second half payment to O’Connor, according to Scanlon. He said the closed session was necessary “to make sure the payment was appropriate given that Roderick was the cause of the lawsuit with The Aspen Times.”
Scanlon said he believes the payment will end the town’s dealings with O’Connor. Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said she “presumes” the agreement will mean there cannot be any future demands for additional payment by O’Connor.
O’Connor resigned after the town’s third-party investigation into his professional conduct showed that his staff almost universally criticized his management style. A complaint by Sgt. Penny Paxton triggered the investigation.
The parting of ways wasn’t cheap for town taxpayers. First there was the settlement package of $83,944. A judge awarded legal fees of $53,566 to The Aspen Times. The town spent $42,707.10 to fight the litigation and for its contract attorney to work on the O’Connor settlement.
The total expense: $180,217.10.
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