COLUMBIA — Police Chief Ken Burton on Wednesday denied a claim by former police officer Jessie Haden that he violated her privacy by telling a reporter she was involved in an affair with the former deputy police chief.
Burton called the allegation "ridiculous." It appears in a letter of resignation from Haden published by the Columbia Daily Tribune on Wednesday.
Haden, who had been the department's public information officer, was reassigned in December in a move Burton said was "indirectly" related to the resignation of then-Deputy Police Chief Tom Dresner. Dresner ended his 26-year career with the department after it was revealed he had an affair with an unidentified female subordinate.
While covering the story, a KOMU reporter filed a Sunshine Law request with the police department asking for Dresner's e-mails. KOMU Executive Director Stacey Woelfel signed off on the request.
Another KOMU reporter, Maurice Scarborough, interviewed Burton around that time to ask about why Haden had been reassigned. Burton repeated that the decision was related to Dresner's resignation, Scarborough said.
In the letter of resignation published by the Tribune, Haden alleged that Burton “deliberately” revealed her identity to make the records request “go away.” Scarborough, however, said that while the relationship was implied, Burton never directly indicated to him that Haden was the woman with whom Dresner had an affair.
Scarborough did not file the original Sunshine Law request and was unaware of it when he interviewed Burton.
“It wasn’t a trade at all,” he said. “I didn’t know that a request had been put in when I talked to Ken Burton.”
Neither Haden nor Dresner could be reached for comment Wednesday. Burton said the city's Human Resources Department is looking into the matter and discussed it with him last week.
Human Resources Director Margrace Buckler, who is handling the case, was unavailable for comment Wednesday afternoon.