Dark cloud over City Hall | AspenTimes.com

Dark cloud over City Hall

By all appearances, Friday’s press con­ference announcing the resignation of Aspen Police Chief Loren Ryerson seemed the most graceful exit strategy for those involved.

Joined by his wife, the chief said, in a terse statement, that he was leaving because it was in the “best interest” of the police department. City Manager Steve Barwick, meanwhile, said no deals were made and that Ryerson, the subject of a recent sexual harassment investiga­tion, was resigning of his own accord.

Barwick did say that Ryerson was found to have engaged in “misconduct,” but did not elaborate because it was a personnel issue.

For the sake of argument, let’s take Ryerson’s and Barwick’s statements at face value. By doing that, however, we end up thoroughly confused, for two rea­sons:

1) If Ryerson engaged in misconduct, then why did the city let him remain in his employee housing for another two years? Not only that, why did the city give him a two-year family pass to the Aspen Recreation Center? To us, that seems like a reward for misconduct.

2) Worse, if Ryerson engaged in mis­conduct, then why did the city offer him his job back? This sent a message to the city’s 275 employees that if they commit misconduct, their jobs are still available.

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How bad must “misconduct” be for someone to lose his or her job?

Perhaps Barwick has a plausible expla­nation, but we have yet to hear it. It’s doubtful we will.

To us, there’s little doubt what really went down. Barwick told Ryerson he could return to his post but not without consequences ” disciplinary action would have been taken, and the police chief could have lost his job after one miscue. It makes sense that Ryerson would not want to suffer further humilia­tion and got out while he could.

For Ryerson and Barwick, the outcome was a win-win situation: Ryerson keeps his housing for another two years, and Barwick wipes his hands of this ugly, embarrassing mess.

As a result, however, a dark cloud hangs over City Hall, which the public should expect to be transparent.

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