Since the story broke regarding the Dresner/Haden illicit affair, some have made the argument that Dresner and Haden are the only ones at fault. While it is true that both Dresner and Haden are to blame for their extramarital coworker coitus, it is important to take a look at how the situation was handled by Chief Burton.
One important fact that is often left out of the discussion is that Haden was married to a cop. Not only was she married to a cop, she was married to a cop who was serving under the leadership of her lover, Deputy Chief Tom Dresner. So Dresner was sleeping with a subordinate and the wife of a subordinate. Not only did Dresner oversee the promotion of his lover, he was literally sending the husband of his lover into situations where he was literally asked to put his life on the line. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence can see the problem with this situation.
Since Haden and her husband did not share a last name, I’m going to let his identity remain a secret for those who do not already know. The guy has been humiliated enough by his former wife and his chief. If you must satisfy your curiosity, it’s a matter of public record. Look it up.
Imagine how Haden’s cop husband must feel. His boss, Deputy Chief Tom Dresner, is sleeping with his wife right under the nose of Chief Burton and when Burton is forced to take action by Dresner’s wife, all he does is ask Dresner to resign. I guess we don’t have to look to far to know who sent the anonymous press release regarding Burton’s handling of the affair. And let’s not forget that a copy of Haden’s resignation letter was also sent to the media anonymously. Suffice it to say that there are those among the ranks of the CPD who want Burton gone.
What this boils down to is that there is at least one – and more likely several – Columbia police officer(s) who have lost faith in Chief Burton. If he refuses to punish his right hand man, Dresner, for sleeping with your wife, does he really have your back on the street?
As the Tribune story points out, Burton is no stranger to controversy. While in Texas, he was embroiled in some unsavory investigations into his actions and the actions of his department.
During Columbia’s vetting of candidates for chief that eventually settled on Burton, concerned citizen Tracy Greever-Rice, did her homework on the candidates and found a great deal of information on Burton. She points out that we may be seeing a pattern now that was ignored during the search. Greever-Rice told KCF:
Ken definitely has a charismatic personality. He interviews well, and people tend to like him personally (including me). However, he has a pretty solid pattern of having things work out the way they seem to be headed here. With just a little research, we could have avoided what will likely prove to be an expensive mistake of having to run a new search for a police chief in the relatively near future.
I certainly agree with her assessment of Chief Burton’s personality. He seems like the kind of guy you’d want to set down and have a beer with. Heck, it almost pains me to critique his work until I remember that he is a public official in charge of a public police department paid with public funds. Public scrutiny goes with the territory.
Here is an excerpt from Tracy Greever-Rice’s email to a member of the selection committee:
In the links below are info regarding three firings and a demotion made by Burton. Two fired officers were reinstated and the demotion was reversed (which could certainly in & of itself be interpreted as reason to question his judgment). Conversely, two other officers, both of which shot and killed dogs – one of whom shot at yet another dog but instead hit a person, was twice caught beating people up, and also caught driving drunk – were disciplined for these incidents but not fired. I think this is worthwhile information for Columbians to consider: Do these decisions by Burton reflect our community’s values?
So let’s take a look at some of the information Tracy Greever-Rice uncovered early in 2009 and shared with the selection committee.
Some of what she found has now been archived and is only available for a fee. If you are interested in taking a look at these archived sources, visit the Star-Telegram archive and search for “Police Chief Ken Burton”. You’ll be able to read the first few paragraphs of each story without paying.
Here are some of the stories that are still available for free…
The Tribune article mentions an incident regarding the purchase of a motorcycle while Burton was chief in Haltom City in Tarrant County, Texas. From what I can tell, the story goes like this. Burton wrote a letter to Harley Davidson on behalf of one of his officer buddies assuring Harley Davidson that a soon to be purchased motorcycle would be used for police business. This helped save the officer nearly $4000 because Harley offers a special deal for law enforcement motorcycles. The motorcycle was actually intended for personal use and was never used for police work. Another officer, Eric Chambliss, blew the whistle on the fraud which triggered an investigation by the Texas Rangers. During the investigation, Burton claimed he didn’t remember signing such a letter and the letter was never produced for the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury refused to indict Burton based on lack of evidence. After the ruling, the letter signed by Burton surfaced. Burton later fired the whistle blower, Eric Chambliss, for “disrupting the workplace”, a charge unrelated to the whistle blowing. The city then overturned the firing of Chambliss and reinstated him.
So it’s OK to steal nearly $4000 from Harley Davidson, but not OK to steal a soda?
And it appears that Burton is was no stranger to controversial firings being overturned. Read about it HERE
He also left some work in Bryan, Texas after some strange personnel decisions.
More on Burton’s personnel decisions HERE
Greever-Rice even found precedent for Chief Burton’s acceptance of “Puppycide” (a term coined by Radley Balko). In an incident that will seem strangely familiar to folks who have followed the Kinloch Ct. incident in Columbia, Burton’s officers in Haltom City were cleared of wrong doing after they shot an obese Jack Russell terrier after kicking in the door of a residence. The story goes on to tell of another incident under Burton’s watch where one of his officers missed the dog and shot a man in the legs. It appears that under Burton’s leadership, when it comes to dogs, the rule is shoot first and ask questions later even when the dog is an ankle-biting Jack Russell terrier.
Here are a list of links regarding Burton’s tenure in Texas.
Last winter, when the Dresner/Haden extra-marital cop love affair came to light, I took a little heat from local progressive aficionado, Mark Haim, for both the tone of my blog and the assertions I made regarding the impact the affair may have had on the department. What Mr. Haim didn’t know is that many folks in the community knew about the affair and, upon hearing the story, the rest of us made an educated guess based upon the number of times the couple was seen together around town sharing knowing looks and furtive smiles. Certainly the investigative experts in the department came to the same conclusion.
Now it appears that I may have been closer to the mark than even I myself thought. Brennan David over that the Columbia Tribune has reported that Haden has filed a complaint against Police Chief Burton alleging that he violated her privacy by disclosing her identity.
The Human Resources Department is reviewing the allegation, made by ex-department spokeswoman Jessie Haden in her Feb. 8 resignation letter in which she said Burton effectively “bartered” away her identity to a KOMU reporter to make an information request “go away.”
So what exactly is Burton hiding? Why not simply release the emails?
Read Haden’s letter of resignation HERE
Even old dirty Tom chimed in in defense of his honey:
Haden and Dresner — who still are a couple — say Burton was sympathetic to their situation at first, and they were “dumbfounded” by the chief’s decision to move Haden to patrol and release her name.
“There are certain actions that fall into the category of things a police chief just can’t do, or any public-sector official, for that matter,” Dresner said. “And that is causing a Sunshine request to go away with an exclusive interview for the media outlet that made the request, hours before everyone else was even notified.”
“While I make no claim as to my impartiality regarding the players, the way he did what he did to her is demonstrative of what he’s willing to do when he gets in a jam,” Dresner said.
Is this simply a pattern of CYA from Chief Burton?
A Tarrant County, Texas, grand jury declined to indict Burton on a complaint of abuse of official capacity in connection with an officer’s purchase of a motorcycle that later was determined to be for personal use. Burton fired the whistle-blower, but the person later was reinstated. Burton told the commission the whistle-blower was fired for an unrelated incident.
Perhaps a KCF sunshine request for those precious emails is in order.
Another interesting tidbit is the release of the Haden resignation letter to the media. There’s an anti-Burton rat somewhere in the department. It makes me wonder if it is the same person who sent the anonymous press release regarding the affair last December.
This trail of lies and deciet leading to the highest ranks in our police department casts a shadow of doubt on every piece of information the department presents to the public. The department has demonstrated their willingness to censor legitimate public comment in an open forum to keep their P.R. machine rolling. Remember, these are the public employees, armed with sub-machine guns and paid by our tax dollars, whom we are supposed to trust to protect and serve our community.
Something tells me this saga is far from over.
The announcement made by Chief Burton regarding the reassignment of Jessie Haden from Public Information Officer to patrol Officer due to her “involvement” in the Tom Dresner affair has finally awakened Columbia’s media to the fact (pointed out in this KCF blog several days ago) that there may have been some malfeasance in the department when Jessie Haden was chosen for the coveted position of P.I.O.. So far it looks like the Missourian has beaten the Tribune to the punch on this one, but you can bet this story is far from over. There are surely several unhappy officers on the force who aren’t going to let this one rest. Well, at least we know there’s one.
A few things jumped out at me in the media coverage of the story. The Tribune reported that…
…Haden was to be “laterally” reassigned to patrol, effective Monday.
and The Missourian reported that, according to the department, Haden…
…was not being punished or demoted and that the decision to reassign officers in the department was his prerogative.
Burton then indicated that…
…Haden was not happy with her new assignment.
I really get the feeling that this is just more smoke and mirrors from the department. Jessie Haden is obviously getting her wrist slapped for her “involvement” in the Tom Dresner affair. That much is clear to everyone, but Chief Burton won’t come out and say it.
The reason for Chief Burton’s tap dancing on this one might have a little something to do with the circumstances surrounding Jessie Haden’s ascent to Public Information Officer back in 2009. The Missourian reported that Tom Dresner formed three-member panel to help choose the new P.I.O.. The panel consisted of City of Columbia Communications Director Toni Messina, Columbia Fire Department Battalion Chief Steven Sapp and Missourian City Editor Scott Swafford. But wait…
When asked about choosing Haden for the job despite the obvious recommendation of the panel, Burton pulled a classic Ronald Reagan. The Missourian reported:
…Burton said he didn’t remember everything about the selection process that was used when Haden became a public information officer, but he said that “there were a variety of factors” leading to Haden’s selection, which he made based on “the totality of the circumstances.” He said he sought the opinions of others but that the final decision was his own.
So let me break this down and ask a few questions.
Old Dirty Dresner picks a panel of distinguished Columbians to help choose a P.I.O.. His honey (hey, the chief said we could all draw our own conclusions), Haden is in the running for the position. No one on the panel likes Haden, but she mysteriously gets the job anyway.
Now, it’s not unlike Chief Burton to do whatever he wants despite public opinion and input from city leaders. This tendency has shown its face more than once in his responses to the C.P.R.B., and comes as no surprise, but now he doesn’t remember why he chose Haden for the job — a decision he made only a year and a half ago.
Does Chief Burton’s foggy memory seem a little too convenient at this juncture?
Was allowing Tom Dresner to appoint a panel to choose the new P.I.O. simply a subterfuge aimed at throwing folks off the sleazy sex scandal scent?
Was Haden chosen for the position before the panel was even convened?
When Burton “sought the opinions of others” was Tom Dresner’s opinion taken into account?
Why is there no internal investigation regarding the circumstances surrounding this affair and its fallout?
Is it time for an external independent investigation?
I won’t dare answer these questions, but they need to be asked.
There were some interesting comments made on my last blog post regarding the Tom “Dirty” Dresner affair and its implications for the Columbia Police Department. On one side of the argument we have the folks who think that the sex lives of public officials are, under all circumstances, a private matter. On the other side we have the folks who, like me, believe that the sex lives of public officials are, under some circumstances, a decidedly public matter. The Dresner affair is a public matter because his actions have placed the public at risk by creating a systemic problem in the command structure of the CPD.
One might ask how a single sleazy sexual affair between the Duputy Chief and a subordinate officer could shake an entire department to its core, so allow me to explain.
Any system that is large enough to require some sort of hierarchical structure eventually relies on that structure to remain viable. In business we know that once a manager’s integrity is compromised it is difficult for him/her to garner the respect of his/her employees. Although Chief Burton claims that the affair was a secret until just a few days ago, common sense tells us that a long-term affair between two police officers was surely not a complete secret. If the affair was discovered by any officer under the command of Dresner, Dresner’s ability to command was compromised.
Rick Gurley made an interesting observation on the subject in his comment following my last blog. He questioned the likelihood of a secret affair taking place right under the nose of the chief, a career law enforcement officer who spent quite a bit of time as a detective trained to notice details and draw conclusions. But the chief isn’t the only detective on the force, right? It’s a police force made up of people trained to do the very same things. How likely is it that a 7-year affair went undetected by the entire force? Not very, I say.
If any employee possesses career-ending information about their superior, it becomes impossible for that superior to honestly review or reprimand the employee. Suffice it to say that if you’ve got some dirt on your boss, you’re in a pretty powerful position. Imagine the officer that inevitably discovers the affair and decides to keep that information secret. Now imagine that officer up for review. Can you imagine Tom Dresner daring to give anything other than glowing marks for that officer? Now imagine that officer being investigated for some sort of misconduct. Maybe that officer shot a couple of dogs in front of a 7-year-old child during a botched drug raid. Maybe that officer took a couple of extra swings with a baton while apprehending a suspect. All that officer would need to do is give a knowing wink to old Tom “Dirty” Dresner and the clout of the second most powerful officer on the entire force would be in the officer’s corner.
Dresner’s inability to keep his pants on has damaged the structural integrity of the entire police force and calls into question every command decision in which Dresner’s opinion or testimony played a part. The situation even calls into question every criminal case in which Dresner was called to testify or in which he played an active role. The knowledge of this illicit affair surely crossed the thin blue line, right?
Heck, this situation may even call for Chris Koster to send an independent team of investigators from Jeff City to look into the systemic problems of CPD on behalf of the citizens of Columbia. It seems like the CPD has done one stupid thing after another for the last several years. Maybe the compromised integrity of the Interim Chief and Deputy Chief, Tom “Dirty Dresner” had a little something to do with it.
p.s. Thanks to the good folks at Americans for Forfeiture Reform for the call all the way from Santa Rosa, CA that inspired this post!
Everyone in Columbia was recently made aware of the forced resignation of Deputy Police Chief Tom Dresner after his illicit affair with a subordinate officer was brought to light. Of course this is a black eye for the department. After all, these are the people we are supposed to trust. If these people will betray their own families…
Keep Columbia Free, thanks to the good folks over at KOPN, has been given access to an anonymous press release that was recently sent to all of Columbia’s major news outlets. The press release claims that Chief Burton attempted to cover up the affair and violated department protocol. The major news outlets have reported that Dresner told Burton about the affair because his family had discovered the infidelity. Dresner wanted to tell Burton before his wife did. The anonymous press release negates that story.
Rumor has it that the recipient of Dresner’s affection (among other things) is a CPD Public Relations Officer who is married to a CPD officer. If this is true, it’s likely that this press release originated from within the department. What did Burton know and when did he know it? We’d all like to know.
I’ll update this post when I have more information, so stay tuned.
UPDATE: The Missourian just ran a piece covering Chief Burton’s response to the anonymous press release. At least one can assume it is a response to the anonymous press release since he is answering allegations of a cover up, but the Missourian makes no mention of the press release.
For those of you who think that an affair between a deputy department head and a subordinate officer is a “private” issue, think about a few things. The police department is a public organization funded by public money. This situation puts our public funds in jeopardy for many reasons.
If this truly was a 7-year affair, as rumor suggests, it would be interesting to see what impact Tom “Dirty” Dresner had on the career advancement of his subordinate mistress. What about the career advancement, or lack thereof, of the officer/husband of the mistress? Remember, Dresner was the interim chief for a while, and as deputy chief, certainly had a large part to play in department politics and human resources.
What if the mistress claims sexual harrassment and wins or settles a suit against the city? Who will fit that bill?
What if the jilted husband claims that his career was stymied at the hands of the Interim Chief and Deputy Chief because this superior officer was banging his wife?
What if other officers on the force decide that they were passed over in favor of the mistress/officer, claiming that she slept her way to a cushy Public Information Officer position?
What about reprisals from the jilted husband or his friends on the force? The anonymous press release makes one wonder who knew what among our police officers and their leaders. Obviously someone has doubts about Chief Burton’s leadership decisions.
The problems this has potentially created in our PUBLIC police department are endless.