Pitkin County deputy fired after alleged hit-and-run
ASPEN – A longtime deputy of the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office was fired Monday after she was charged with careless driving stemming from an alleged a hit-and-run in February.
Sheriff Joe DiSalvo confirmed Tuesday that he terminated Ann Stephenson, 54, who joined the force in 1983. She will receive no severance pay, and her termination was effective immediately, county officials said.
“She crossed a line I did not think we should be crossing,” DiSalvo said.
A telephone message left at Stephenson’s Basalt residence was not returned Tuesday.
The firing of Stephenson, whose most recent title was deputy and who had once been a patrol director, came after a Feb. 7 incident on Cluny Road, which is part of a private neighborhood off West Owl Creek Road, according to a traffic-accident report from the Colorado State Patrol.
The CSP was handed the case by the Sheriff’s Office, which received a phone call within 30 minutes after Stephenson allegedly left the scene about 6:30 p.m., according the State Patrol report.
Stephenson had been on the scene investigating a two-vehicle accident, according to a dispatch recording. The caller said either Stephenson or a tow truck, which had been dispatched to Cluny Road for the original accident, had hit another vehicle.
“I need to speak to Ann Stephenson,” the caller said, telling the dispatcher that “it was an accident she was just on. There was an additional hit and run.”
The State Patrol report says that when Stephenson was backing out of Cluny Road to leave, the Chevy Tahoe patrol vehicle she was driving sideswiped another unoccupied vehicle on the road’s shoulder.
“(Stephenson’s vehicle) collided it’s (sic) right passenger door mirror to the left, driver side mirror of the (second vehicle),” the report says, adding that Stephenson’s vehicle “then left the scene.”
In the state of Colorado, motor-vehicle accidents must be reported to law-enforcement authorities.
Stephenson’s supervisor on the night in question was Parker Lathrop, according to DiSalvo. Stephenson notified Lathrop of the accident after the caller contacted dispatch, DiSalvo said.
DiSalvo declined to go into specifics about what Stephenson told Lathrop at the time or what she told the sheriff during later conversations about the incident. He said when she left the scene, she was not doing it to respond to an emergency- or work-related call.
The sheriff said he issued Stephenson a one-week paid suspension starting Feb. 27. One week later, on Monday, she met with the sheriff, Undersheriff Ron Ryan and an assistant county manager, DiSalvo said. She was not given the option to resign, DiSalvo said.
“This termination is based on the State Patrol’s report and the summons,” DiSalvo said. “Her explanation was not good enough. That’s what I’m basing my termination on.”
Stephenson had been suspended on at least one previous occasion. At the time of her suspension, in late 2008, Sheriff’s Office officials would not disclose the reason for her administrative leave.
Likewise, DiSalvo declined to discuss Stephenson’s history with the Sheriff’s Office as it pertains to her firing.
“This termination is not performance-related,” he said. “It’s specific to this incident.”
The State Patrol officer who issued the ticket, Graham Thorne, referred questions to Capt. Rich Duran, who did not return a telephone message left at his Glenwood Springs office Tuesday afternoon.
Stephenson’s most recent salary was $34.86 an hour, according to the county’s human resources office. Based on a 40-hour workweek, that translates to an annual pay of $72,508.
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