Aspen police chief resigns
ASPEN, COLORADO ” Aspen Police Chief Loren Ryerson has resigned amid sexual harassment allegations by former employees, one of whom he publicly apologized to Friday.
Ryerson, who has led the department for the past six years, made the announcement Friday during a press conference at City Hall. His wife, Mary, was by his side. The couple and their family will continue to live in city-regulated housing for two years.
“I feel that it is in the best interest of the Aspen Police Department for me to resign,” Ryerson said in a prepared statement shortly before he and Mary left the press conference without answering questions.
Ryerson was placed on paid administrative leave five weeks ago after an investigation into sexual harassment claims was launched by the city’s insurance carrier, the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency. Although the agency determined that Ryerson did engage in misconduct related to the sexual harassment allegations, it didn’t rise to the level of requiring severe disciplinary action, said City Manager Steve Barwick said.
Barwick said he offered Ryerson his job back on Wednesday with no conditions. However, Barwick said some disciplinary action would have been taken against Ryerson. Barwick wouldn’t elaborate on what that action was, citing that it’s a personnel matter and the state’s open records laws limit what he can divulge.
Barwick said he was following the agency’s recommendation to reinstate Ryerson and that no deals were made, and he didn’t discuss with Ryerson what options he had.
Assistant Police Chief Richard Pryor, who has been acting police chief since Ryerson was put on leave Oct. 3, will remain in that position until a replacement is found.
City department heads noticed months ago that a common theme had surfaced in exit interviews from former police department employees who were critical of Ryerson’s leadership and management style. Some alleged sexual harassment, including former Aspen police officer Renee Rayton, who was one of the first people interviewed by the insurance carrier’s investigator, Timothy Leary.
Ryerson on Friday issued a public statement to Rayton, who left the police department in May to take a job as a Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy.
“I wish to extend a sincere apology to Renee Rayton for the harm she has suffered,” Ryerson said. “She is an excellent peace officer who deserves the support of the community.”
Barwick said Rayton never filed a complaint with the city.
Ryerson, who began working at the Aspen Police Deparment in 1984, will not receive any severance pay or any other compensation except that his family will continue to live in the house Ryerson purchased from the city of Aspen for the next two years.
Ryerson also will receive a family pass to the Aspen Recreation Center. Barwick said he gave him that perk because he asked for it.
Barwick said he wasn’t surprised by Ryerson’s resignation.
“It’s difficult to operate in any high level government position after allegations like this,” Barwick said, adding that there are pros and cons with Ryerson leaving.
The position pays between $89,893 and $123,993. Ryerson was making $104,000 when he left.