Release of Aspen officer’s file won’t be argued in court
ASPEN – An Aspen defense attorney’s bid to unseal a police officer’s personnel file was derailed Tuesday because of a plea agreement.
Lawyer Lauren Maytin had filed a motion to release the personnel records of Aspen police officer Valerie McFarlane, who had arrested one of Maytin’s clients for driving under the influence.
Maytin had argued that McFarlane lacks credibility because of her conduct as a police officer during the most recent Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival. That’s when McFarlane gained free, VIP access to the event because she was wearing her badge and in uniform. She was off duty at the time.
McFarlane’s personnel file became a moot point in the DUI case after Maytin’s client reached a plea agreement by accepting the lesser offense of driving while ability impaired. A hearing over whether to release McFarlane’s personnel file was scheduled Tuesday.
“To my dismay, my client will be accepting a plea bargain,” Maytin told Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely.
McFarlane’s conduct, Maytin alleges, makes her unfit for duty.
“It saddens me when an officer commits theft and it’s not dealt with in a public forum,” Maytin said in an interview. “Anybody else would have been charged with a felony.”
The police department stands behind McFarlane.
“We believe she’s doing a great job and we’re doing everything that we can to help her,” said Assistant Police Chief Linda Consuegra.
Consuegra said it’s unfortunate that McFarlane’s Jazz Fest incident is being used against her when the emphasis should be on the suspect who is charged with a crime.
“Right now we’re making it about Valerie when we should be focusing on the defendant,” Consuegra said.
Maytin said if she has another client who is arrested by McFarlane, and McFarlane is the sole arresting officer, she will pursue the file again.
“It’s very evident her credibility is an issue,” Maytin said. “There are dishonesty issues with her.”
The city has made it clear it will contest Maytin’s efforts. Jim True, special counsel for the city of Aspen, was in court Tuesday to argue against releasing the file. Consuegra also attended.
“Us not releasing the personnel file is basically protected by the law,” Consuegra said.
In a previous interview with the Aspen Daily News, McFarlane expressed regret about the Jazz Fest incident. She was quoted as saying she gained VIP access to the festival on separate days. On one of those days her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend were able to gain access to the VIP section because they were with McFarlane, despite paying general admission.
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