Hayden police chief fired by town manager

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Gordon Booco

— Hayden Police Chief Gordon Booco was fired Monday for reasons that have not been made public.

“Gordon is no longer working for the Hayden Police Department,” Town Manager David Torgler said Wednesday. “It’s a personnel issue, and I can’t get into it.”

Torgler said that per the town’s charter, the decision to fire Booco was ultimately his, and he briefed Hayden Town Council members about the decision soon after Booco was fired.

For fear that the town could open itself up to a lawsuit, Torgler would not discuss what led to the firing.

He said an issue came to his attention in late June.

“It was investigated, and Gordon is no longer working for the town,” said Torgler, adding a “qualified investigator” from outside the police department handled the investigation.

Town staff members have performance evaluations done annually. Torgler said Booco’s last evaluation was done in fall 2012.

When reached Wednesday, Booco said that he was disappointed by the decision and that he did not want to discuss the allegations.

“I think there is a lot of false statements with this,” Booco said. “Other than that, I don’t want to comment.”

Booco said he was working on developing a defense and was looking at his options.

Booco, a lifetime Hayden resident and 1972 graduate of Hayden High School, said he had worked full-time for the police department since November 1996. Before that, he was a reserve officer for six years.

During Torgler’s first week as town manager, he hired Booco as acting police chief Dec. 31, 2010.

Booco replaced Ray Birch, who stepped down after accepting an offer to become Routt County undersheriff.

Booco served as acting chief for more than a year until being promoted to permanent chief in April 2012.

“I did not believe any of the (applicants) were better qualified than Chief Booco,” Torgler said at the time.

In addition to the chief, the police department has three full-time officers and a clerical position, and the department recently hired a community service officer.

Torgler said it would take three to four months to hire a new chief, and Mark Berkley has been named the officer in charge. In the interim, Torgler said the officers also would be working closely with Lt. Doug Scherar at the Routt County Sheriff’s Office.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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