Dinosaur divided by decision of trustees | CraigDailyPress.com

Dinosaur divided by decision of trustees

Firing of police officer met with public outcry

Christina M. Currie

Personal attacks, arguments and a disagreement that almost turned into a fight weren’t on the agenda, but led to a lively meeting Tuesday night before the Dinosaur Town Council.

Extra chairs were placed in town council chambers as more than 40 people crowded together to protest the firing of Police Chief Darrell Murphy.

Trustees Hank McKay and Bruce Petersen fired Murphy Nov. 18 without giving him or anyone else a reason. They cited a “no cause” personnel ordinance which states “all town employees serve at the pleasure of the Board of Trustees. No town employees have any vested or contractual right to a job with the Town of Dinosaur. No town employees have a right to any disciplinary procedures prior to termination. All employees are terminable-at-will and may be terminated with or without cause, without notice, and without an opportunity to be heard prior to or following termination.”

Board members requested officers from the Moffat County Sheriff’s Department and the Colorado State Patrol be at the meeting to keep the peace. Three officers attended as well as the part-time and reserve officer from the Dinosaur Police Department.

People who planned to speak on Murphy’s behalf were stalled by a letter Murphy asked be read at the meeting.

In the letter, Murphy asked people to let the matter lie and respect the board’s “no cause” explanation.

“I’m grateful for the support with the injustice done to me,” the letter stated. “I considered myself employed by the town, not the council, but that was a misunderstanding on my part.

“I don’t think I did anything bad enough to be fired, but I was trained to obey my superiors. The one mistake I made was trusting certain people I work for and who work for me.”

The letter stated Murphy was legally advised not to show up at the council meeting to keep the peace.

But Murphy’s termination wasn’t the only threat to peace at the meeting. Once the floor was open to audience comments, a debate started that included personal attacks between audience members and board members and between residents.

One audience member asked what the town would do for police protection at night and protested when Mayor Richard Blakley said it was being taken care of. She said no one responded to a harassment complaint she made the night before and accused children of town board members of harassing her. As she got up to leave, Josh Hinkle, son of board member Starlyn Hinkle, followed her and had to be stopped by sheriff’s deputy Tim Jantz.

The town board has yet to come forward to support McKay and Peterson’s decision to fire Murphy. No formal vote has been taken, but according to town ordinance, no vote is needed. Any board member can fire any employee at any time for any reason, Blakley said.

Blakley did admit to telling a Dinosaur resident that Murphy was doing a good job and that he supported him 100 percent. But “things changed” he said.

Murphy could not be reached for comment.