Basalt will pay paper’s legal fees
The Basalt Town Council authorized payment of $53,566 in legal fees The Aspen Times racked up in a court battle over documents related to the departure of former Police Chief Roderick O’Connor.
Town Attorney Tom Smith informed one of the attorneys for the newspaper, Tom Kelley, that the town government is prepared to pay. An Eagle County district judge awarded the legal fees earlier this month. Town Manager Mike Scanlon said at the time that the fees would have to be paid out of the town’s general fund. Insurance didn’t cover it.
O’Connor parted ways with the town in November in what officially was called a resignation. The town refused to release a settlement agreement and other documents related to O’Connor’s departure. The judge on June 3 ordered the release of the documents and awarded legal fees to the newspaper. The town didn’t appeal the decision.
The legal battle over the release of the documents cost the town $96,273.10. Smith billed the town $42,707.10 to work on the O’Connor settlement and to litigate with The Aspen Times, according to records the town released.
O’Connor received a settlement package of $83,944 in compensation. That included 10 months of pay, compensation for unused vacation time and health care coverage. O’Connor was paid half of the nearly $84,000 when he resigned. The second half was due May 1, but the town has declined to pay it. Scanlon said the town was contesting the need to pay the remainder because O’Connor violated a confidentiality agreement by giving the settlement to the city of Aspen when he applied for a job as a police officer.
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