Su Lum: Slumming |

Su Lum: Slumming

Su Lum
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

After more than four months of waiting and wondering, the public got to read the infamous investigative report about Basalt Police Chief Roderick O’Connor and, at last, to find out what could have been so bad that he had to resign but not bad enough for him to be fired.

In case you missed it, the quick way to find it is to go to and, in the search box in the upper right, type in “report portrays” and then click on the arrow in the box next to “Investigation Report.”

If you’re looking for a Clarence Thomas-type scandal, you’ll be disappointed, but if you want an inner glimpse into extreme petty office politics, it doesn’t get any better than this. It should be required reading for anyone foolish enough to apply for the job.

What is blatantly obvious is that, at best, the minor gripes leveled against O’Connor should have been dealt with in conflict resolution or mediation rather than hiring an outside investigator for $9,348 to uncover nothing.

It is also blatantly obvious that Sgt. Penny Paxton had it in for O’Connor from Day One, saving up bits of “evidence” and emails for two years before lowering the boom that backfired.

If the two of them had had a heart-to-heart or even a knock-down drag-out fight on Day Two, the situation could have been defused, resolved or detonated until only one was left standing.

That’s how we often did it at The Aspen Times. Loren Jenkins, God love him, wrote memos that could blister the pads off your fingertips and you could fire right back. Andy Stone and I got in the pit-bull rink more than once and emerged with only surface wounds.

In high-stress jobs with deadlines (us) and life-and-death (police department), it is counterproductive for the operations to be undermined by jealousies and perceived slights and getting pissed off by trivialities.

The boss respects Sgt. Stu Curry more than me – that’s gender bias; bring in the hounds! (No sexual discrimination was unearthed in the $9,348 dig.)

The boss prints out his emails and leaves them on your desk and this means he thinks you’re stupid? Big whoops – call in the investigators!

Paxton made much of those emails, which are also in the public record and available online. I was impressed at how sweet and thoughtful they were, always ending “Be safe.” All I can say is that if we had gotten mail like that from Loren Jenkins, we would have asked him what meds he was on.

O’Connor’s only crime was that he naively didn’t know what was festering under his nose. You’d think he would have smelled it because it sure stank. Curry took Paxton’s side, and it was all over except the settlement.

Another thing that’s clear after reading the report: There was no way that O’Connor could have returned to that toxic office.

Hail to the new chief. May he bring a wide broom and start with some major sweeping.

Su Lum is a longtime local who doesn’t know any of the characters in this farce. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at

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