Former Breckenridge police chief received $10,000 in severance, but legal issues cloud circumstances
Breckenridge paid former police chief Dennis McLaughlin more than $10,400 in severance following his Aug. 23 resignation, according to a separation agreement with the town.
The 10-page document, which the town provided in response to an open records request, limits what information the town can release about the resignation. It also bars McLaughlin from taking any legal action against the town.
In his resignation letter, dated Aug. 4, but taking effect Aug. 23, McLaughlin said he was leaving his post to care for a family member. He declined to comment further, saying the letter was the only information he could provide. (A clause in the separation agreement prohibits him from discussing further).
Several people familiar with the situation said that account isn’t a complete picture of McLaughlin’s resignation, although they requested to not be identified because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter.
A thicket of legal issues, including the separation agreement and certain provisions of the Colorado Open Records Act, has prevented town officials from commenting on McLaughlin’s departure or providing more details.
The Breckenridge town manager’s office has said since early August that it cannot comment on McLaughlin’s employment status because it is a personnel matter. That remained the case after the resignation was formalized later that month, and officials said they were still prohibited from commenting.
The separation agreement says that it is not an admission of guilt or wrongdoing on either side but is merely a settlement. As part of that, the town agreed to keep communication about the agreement as limited as possible.
The town also agreed to remove any investigative records from McLaughlin’s personnel file, “should any such references exist.”
“Any such documents will be kept in a separate investigative file and not be produced or shown to anyone else except as follows,” the document continues, before listing eight circumstances in which any files might be released, including if they were subject to an open records request.
In response to an Aug. 30 record request asking for McLaughlin’s resignation letter, documents pertaining to the resignation and any disciplinary or investigative files naming McLaughlin, the town provided only the letter and the separation agreement.
In its response, the Breckenridge town clerk’s office said that a provision of the Colorado Open Records Act may have prevented it from disclosing some aspects of the request.
The CORA provision cited includes a long list of records that can’t be released except under specific circumstances. Many are obscure, like library records and the phone numbers of school students.
Only some appear relevant to a police resignation. Those include medical, mental health, sociological and scholastic achievement data, personnel files and all documents related to sexual harassment investigations.
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