Basalt residents start petition drive to support police chief

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Roderick O'Connor

BASALT – Supporters of Basalt Police Chief Roderick O’Connor are gathering signatures on a petition they plan to present to the Town Council at its next meeting Nov. 27.

Kelley Burk, a Basalt resident and one of the organizers of the petition drive, said the plan is to get as many signatures as possible and pack the meeting with supporters.

“People think Roderick O’Connor is the perfect fit for the community,” she said.

Amy Forsey, another organizer of the effort, is displaying a petition at her store, Express Yourself. The title on the petition says, “Please Keep Roderick as Basalt Police Chief.”

The copy of the petition says, “We, the undersigned, are concerned citizens who urge our leaders to act now to keep Roderick O’Connor as Basalt’s Chief of Police. We believe Roderick is a perfect fit for Basalt and is a major asset to the community.”

The petition was rolled out Saturday at about six downtown businesses. “We’ve only heard positive things,” Forsey said.

O’Connor, 63, has been with the department since 2007 and was appointed chief in 2010. He was placed on paid leave the week of Oct. 8 for unspecified reasons. Town officials won’t discuss the issue because it is a personnel matter. Town Attorney Tom Smith said state law prohibits the town from releasing any information about the case unless it is directed to do so by O’Connor.

The town received information that spurred it to hire the Mountain States Employers Council to perform an investigation of O’Connor’s actions as police chief. The Colorado company is a consulting firm that helps paying members with employment law, human resources, employee surveys, and training and development. Mountain States filed a report that is in the hands of incoming Town Manager Mike Scanlon.

The town code says Scanlon must determine if O’Connor should be disciplined or fired. If the manager decides action is necessary, the Town Council must hold a hearing within seven days to review the manager’s decision.

Burk acknowledged that the group of supporters has no idea if the petition has any legal significance.

“This is all foreign to us,” she said. They are hoping the community sends a clear message to the council.

Signatures haven’t been tallied yet because the effort is so fresh. Burk said there is a contingent of town residents who have jumped at the chance to sign the petition. Others are watching the developments and waiting.

“Some people aren’t comfortable signing it until they know what he did,” Burk said.

She places herself in the camp of unequivocal supporters. O’Connor likes people, Burk said, and he likes working with people to solve problems. He doesn’t see issues in black and white.

Burk said she cannot imagine O’Connor capable of any type of wrongdoing.

“It will be a shame if the accusers get their way,” she said.

The petition-drive organizers are frustrated that they are “still in the dark” about the allegations against O’Connor, according to Burk. There is no indication that any criminal investigation has been launched. The only known investigation was by the Mountain States Employers Council.