Aspen chief denies harrassment claims |

Aspen chief denies harrassment claims

ASPEN, Colo. ” Aspen Police Chief Loren Ryerson called sexual harassment allegations that led to his paid leave “malicious hearsay and cruel gossip.”

In his first comments Friday since he was placed on leave Oct. 3, Ryerson characterized leaks about the investigation as “grossly unfair” and “enormously harmful” to him and his family.

“The allegations against me are totally false and I am confident that the investigation will prove that they are nothing more than malicious hearsay and cruel gossip,” Ryerson said in a statement that he also read on Aspen-area radio stations.

Ryerson is accused of sexually harassing female police officers in a pattern that dates back several years. He first joined the Aspen Police Department in 1984 and rose to chief in 2001 after the departure of Joe Cortez.

“This investigation was by the city’s own rules supposed to be confidential, and not publicly disclosed, so that people would not be harmed, so that reputations would not be needlessly damaged and so that any allegations could be fully examined and assessed,” the chief, who is married with children, said in his statement. “Sadly, those rules have been ignored, and as a consequence, people and their reputations have been unnecessarily harmed.”

City Manager Steve Barwick, who hired Ryerson, confirmed the chief is on leave but declined to provide information saying it is a “personnel matter.”

Ryerson continues to draw his $104,000 annual salary while the investigation continue. Should he resign or be fired, Ryerson would lose his city-subsidized house that he and his wife, Mary, purchased for about $326,000 in the summer of 2005.

He would have 180 days to sell the home back to the city.

“Mary and I do wish to thank the very many of you who have offered your love and support to both of us, and our children, during this painful episode. We appreciate it deeply and it reminds us of how wonderful this community truly is,” he said.

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