Ex-cop defends probe | AspenTimes.com

Ex-cop defends probe

The investigator of a complaint against the Basalt Police Department is defending the integrity of his study against charges by a woman who claims it was biased.

The investigator, former Aspen Police Chief Tom Stephenson, said he believes his work has been criticized by the family of Robert Peters because it didn’t come to the conclusion they want.

Stephenson was hired by the Basalt town government to investigate a verbal confrontation March 2 between Sgt. Chris Maniscalchi and Peters, 18, who graduated Saturday from Basalt High School.

Peters and his mother, Cheryl Kisow, claimed that Maniscalchi warned Peters to stay away from another high school student or risk the consequences. Both men were shouting and Peters allegedly cursed the cop repeatedly.

Kisow complained to the police department, but wasn’t satisfied with their response. She took the complaint to Town Manager Tom Baker, who hired Stephenson for an outside report.

“Based on my investigation, I never believed what I heard constituted criminal harassment,” said Stephenson.

If he thought the officer was subject to criminal charges, he would have turned his findings over to the Eagle County prosecutor’s office, he said. Kisow: Cops stick together Kisow dismissed Stephenson’s effort as a whitewashing. She said it was just an example of one cop covering for another.

She told The Aspen Times last week she is contemplating further steps to get authorities to act on her complaint.

Stephenson said it’s mostly a case of shooting the messenger.

“In my opinion, Mrs. Kisow wouldn’t be satisfied unless Sgt. Maniscalchi lost his job,” he said. “But in my opinion, nothing that happened that day came close to warranting his dismissal.”

What exactly did happen remains under wraps. Stephenson won’t release his findings because it is a government personnel issue. The only way he could release what cops call an “incident report” would be if charges against Maniscalchi were advised.

“I determined there was no criminal conduct on the part of Sgt. Maniscalchi, therefore it remains solely a personnel issue, which prohibits me from commenting with any specificity,” Stephenson said.

Baker and Basalt Police Chief Jim Stryker are also restricted on what they can say because of laws protecting government employees’ privacy.

Maniscalchi is the only person on the government side who can disclose his side of the dispute because he isn’t restricted by the same rules of privacy. However, he declined last week to talk about the issue. Discipline or no discipline? Kisow and Stephenson have offered different versions of the fallout from the investigation.

Kisow claimed Stephenson told her that much of what she and her son alleged in their complaint about the incident with Maniscalchi was true.

“He said, and this is a quote, `You and I both know there was harassment but we can’t prove it is true,’ ” Kisow said. She claimed that Stephenson further explained to her that no criminal behavior on the part of Maniscalchi could be proven in court.

Stephenson countered that Kisow’s recollection of what he said is simply incorrect. He never told her there was harassment, he said.

There is also confusion about what disciplinary action, if any, was taken against Maniscalchi.

Kisow said she was told by Stephenson that the town did take action against the officer.

Baker and Stryker told The Aspen Times that no action was warranted, based on the findings of the study.

Stephenson’s comments confused the matter further.

He said he was prohibited from talking about specifics, but noted, “Certain remedies were undertaken that were appropriate.”

Stephenson wouldn’t disclose those “remedies.” Feud still simmers While the investigation is over, feelings of ill will are not. Kisow claimed that Maniscalchi offered to apologize to her son in private. The offer was not accepted.

Kisow demanded to be present when the apology occurs.

Peters didn’t want to meet with Maniscalchi in private. He said he wanted Maniscalchi to write a public apology and give it to local newspapers.

Stephenson said he was hoping for a different conclusion.

“It was my hope that all the parties involved could have learned some valuable lessons and moved on with their lives,” he said.

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