Board wants say in hiring police chief

— The Oak Creek Town Board wants the Routt County sheriff's help in choosing a police chief, but it also wants to retain the strongest voice in the decision.

At Thursday's meeting, the Town Board agreed on a hiring committee that would use all seven of the Town Board members and three appointees from Sheriff John Warner.

The present six board members agreed they wanted Warner to do the background investigations and narrow a list of eight applicants down to three. From that point, the hiring committee would make a decision.

Warner, whose staff is responding to calls in the town without police coverage, has asked that the hiring process be completed by Sept. 30.

The last time Oak Creek hired a police chief, Tom Ling, the board used a different makeup for the hiring committee. It used one undersheriff from Routt County and another from Moffat County, a police lieutenant from Steamboat and one from Craig, a State Patrol captain, two board members and two residents.

But this time around, the board decided it wanted the majority of members and the entire Town Board to sit on the committee.

The town has received 15 applications from interested officers since Ling resigned earlier this summer. But the board is willing to consider only the officers that have passed Colorado's police certification test.

The town's only police officer, Jason Lunnen, stepped down from the position this summer because of his failure to pass the state test, and Ling was said to have problems with the test.

"I don't want to get in the same problem we had in the last two," board member J. Elliott said. "We have already been bitten twice on this."

Of the officers who applied, eight have passed the state certification test, and the town is accepting applications until Sept. 23.

With no police force at all, the town will first hire the police chief, who will then hire a second police officer, board member Mike Kien said.

The board also approved a waiver, which applicants would have to sign to allow for the board, and not just the Sheriff's Office, to review any documents that are found during background checks.

Without this document, Kien said the sheriff can only recommended an applicant by a yes or no answer and not divulge any information found on the background checks. The board agreed to have the sheriff run a background check on the national crime computer database and have the sheriff give the applicants numerical rankings.

Once that list is narrowed to three, the board would take the No. 1 candidate and do an investigation with interviews and visits to the applicant's current town.

The Town Board also approved an intergovernmental agreement between the town and the Sheriff's Office.

Until Oak Creek hires its own police force, the agreement has a county deputy coming to Town Hall every Wednesday and Saturday to handle complaints. The deputy will be on duty between noon and 2 p.m. on Wednesday and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday.

The Sheriff's Office will also respond to in-progress calls involving violent misdemeanors and felonies.

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