Unhappy Haden and the Forgetful Chief

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…

Both Sapp and Swafford recalled in interviews this week that they recommended Sergent or Westbrook for the job. Swafford said Haden did not appear to be the first choice of any panel member.

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?

Are moustaches really irresistible?

I won’t dare answer these questions, but they need to be asked.

Stay tuned…


5 thoughts on “Unhappy Haden and the Forgetful Chief

  1. Rick Gurley

    Yeah, I predicted this in a post in the Missourian when this first came out. I never mentioned any names, but I did indicate in a scenario that the female subordinate Officer that Mr. Dresner was having the affair with was married with or at least cohabitating with another Officer that was a Detective with Major Crimes at the CPD.

    In the last paragraph of the post that I am referring to in the Missourian, I asked “has anyone noticed that Jessie Haden has not put out any press releases lately”?

    MYSTERIOUSLY, that post stayed up for about 2 days, and was then deleted.. I wonder why someone at the Missourian deleted it? Perhaps they may have thought that I had not “hard proof”? But the fact is, I have known about this little “tryst” and a few others at the CPD, long before it ever became public…. Still; someone should ask Scott Swafford why my post was deleted…


  2. mark

    That is strange, Rick. Why did it take so long for the Missourian to kick your post? If it was the Missourian that had a problem with your post they would have dropped it immediately. Looks to me like “somebody” saw your post and made a call.

    What’s more, several people knew about this affair. Once the story broke, Haden’s name was whispered in every corner. Your question on another blog of “How did the Chief not know about this?” really hits the nail on the head.

  3. Steve

    I am reminded of the Boone County Fire District scandal two years ago when it was discovered that then Chief Steve Paulsell’s mistress had been promoted from a $25k/yr secretary to a $93k/yr “Asst Chief” position in the admin office. Then the citizen Fire Board was quoted in the papers saying they were unable to remove him from office. He ended up being forced to retire soon after, but with a $300k severance package and kept his retirement benefits.
    We need to privatize, or at least cut down to size, all these out of control gov’t agencies – they are cesspools of corruption, even here in little ol’ CoMo.

    1. Stephen Andsager

      Corruption doesn’t happen in private agencies? I think most people would agree that private agencies are less transparent. Can you say “Blackwater”? Where ever there are people, there is corruption. Privatization in the prison system has been disastrous.
      The best antidote for corruption is a free press.

      1. Mark Flakne

        Cutting government agencies down to size and requiring transparency is one important step toward cleaning up the mess. Although I agree that several, if not most, government functions could and should be privatized, I’m not sure that fire protection, police, and/or defense are among them. I tend to see these as legitimate functions of government. Policing for profit is becoming a problem with the advent of police self-funding through civil asset forfeiture. If this function of government were privatized we’d have an even bigger mess. Fire protection for profit would surely cause its own set of problems.


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