The town of Basalt is beginning what is anticipated to be a four-month-long, nationwide search for a qualified candidate to fill its chief of police position, which recently became vacant after Roderick O’Connor resigned from the job for reasons that are still unclear.
The process of finding a new police chief could take months because town officials are creating a citizen’s advisory panel to help qualify and select a candidate for the position, said Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon, who officially started his job on Monday.
The panel will participate in reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates throughout the process, he said. Overall, candidates will be judged based on their education and experience, Scanlon said.
It is not unusual to have the public participate in the selection of a police chief in such a small community, Scanlon said. Small town government officials generally use feedback from locals to determine what qualities they want to see in people who hold positions that police the community, he said.
“It’s very important to engage the citizens when we determine who will fill community policing [jobs],” he said.
Every municipality that Scanlon has worked for in the past has undergone similar processes, he added. He has served as the chief financial officer for the city of Merriam, Kan., and as a senior budget analyst for the city of Kansas City, Mo.
Involving public outreach in the hiring process is not a product of the recent departure of O’Connor, according to Scanlon. O’Connor, 63, was originally placed on paid administrative leave in October after the town received a complaint about him from within the police department.
As a result, the town hired an impartial third party, Mountain States Employers Council, to conduct an investigation into the complaint. That organization’s report said no misconduct on the part of O’Connor was discovered. Soon after, O’Connor resigned. The exact nature of the complaint has not been revealed.
O’Connor, who received an $83,994 severance package, said he resigned for personal reasons and also declined comment when asked about the complaint, saying the matter is confidential. The town of Basalt and its attorney, Tom Smith, also have declined to comment on the matter.
Town officials will appoint an interim police chief to serve in the meantime, Scanlon said. At least two locals, Flint Chambers and Greg Morrison, have expressed interest in filling in the interim. Morrison is the president of The Morrison Group LLC, a local consulting firm that specializes in personnel placement. His company helped place Scanlon as the new town manager. Chambers served as the chief of police for the town of Rangely from 2001 and 2006, and a deputy sheriff of Eagle County prior to that. He currently owns commercial and residential rental spaces and cattle in Rangely.
Town officials are seeking two or three more candidates before they will consider who to appoint to the position, Scanlon said. Sgt. Stu Curry and Sgt. Penny Paxton are co-acting as chiefs until an interim is selected and neither are being considered for the interim job. They both told the Aspen Daily News last week that they wouldn’t be pursuing the top cop job.
Scanlon will brief Basalt’s town council members on the process of filling the vacant position in a regular meeting this afternoon.