The three highest-ranking officers in the Aspen Police Department have no qualms about potentially rehiring Basalt’s former police chief despite criticism the staff at his old job leveled at him.
The condemnation of Roderick O’Connor from his former officers came in an investigative report produced by an outside human-resources firm. The report was one part of a workplace investigation by former Town Manager Bill Kane.
While the report indicates dissatisfaction with O’Connor among the Basalt Police Department staff, the inquiry concluded without a finding or implication of misconduct of any kind.
O’Connor was placed on administrative leave in October, during the investigation, and resigned the next month after he read the report.
He has since applied for a job with the Aspen police force and provided the report as part of the hiring process.
Bill Linn and Linda Consuegra, Aspen’s assistant police chiefs, were the primary reviewers of the investigative documents and reported their findings to Chief Richard Pryor, said department spokeswoman Blair Weyer. Pryor said he has made a conditional job offer to O’Connor.
“They didn’t see anything in the report that made us question that he’ll be a good officer,” Weyer said. “We think that with his experience and knowledge of the community, he will be a good fit for the department.”
O’Connor worked for the Aspen Police Department from 1999 until 2007, when he was hired as a sergeant in Basalt. He was named Basalt police chief in 2010 upon the retirement of his predecessor, Keith Ikeda, who hired O’Connor.
Ill will among at least one of the officers under O’Connor apparently began within weeks. Sgt. Penny Paxton told an investigator with Mountain States Employers Council (MSEC), which produced the report, that she was expecting to be promoted to her current rank soon after the town tapped O’Connor to be chief.
O’Connor said in the report that he was hesitant at first to promote Paxton.
“I had some concerns about Penny that I wanted to resolve before promoting her, arising from her failure to invite people from Town Hall to [Ikeda’s] retirement party,” he told the MSEC investigator.
Paxton said in the report that she wasn’t promoted for three months, while O’Connor said he promoted her within a month, after she had satisfied his concerns.
The report also contained myriad complaints from officers and staff about O’Connor’s leadership, communication and interpersonal skills.
Consuegra and Linn looked at the report as a whole and didn’t single any particular episode out, Weyer said. She also noted that, if hired, he will be a patrol officer and will not have a management role.
“We think he’ll be an asset,” Weyer said.
It was O’Connor’s providing of the report to Aspen police that allowed the public to see it. The town of Basalt had fought efforts by both Aspen newspapers, including a lawsuit by The Aspen Times’ parent company, to get the report released.
Town officials had, until last week, maintained that the report was part of O’Connor’s confidential personnel file and said releasing it would violate the settlement agreement between the town and the former chief.
But amid a two-day show-cause hearing on whether an Eagle County judge should order the town to release the report, O’Connor told Town Manager Mike Scanlon outside court that he had disclosed the document to Aspen police.
That development, in turn, weakened the town’s legal argument that its disclosure is limited to only O’Connor and town officials. The Basalt Town Council voted unanimously Friday to discontinue the legal fight against the Times and released 138 pages of material related the investigation.
O’Connor has taken a physical and must also pass a psychological examination before he is hired on, a test that could happen in the next couple of weeks, Weyer said.