Aurora seeks to appoint new member to powerful civil service commission


AURORA | The City of Aurora is once again seeking to make whole its municipal civil service commission, the entity tasked with overseeing the hiring, firing and discipline of members of the local police and fire forces.

City officials announced Tuesday that applications to become a member of the commission will be open until Oct. 29. To apply, prospective members must live in Aurora, be registered voters and not be on the city payroll or serve on another local board or commission.

The current city council will interview and vote on qualified applicants next month, after the municipal elections but before new members are sworn-in in December.

The opening on the five-person board came following the resignation of former commissioner AJ McDonald, a retired corrections officers, earlier this year.

The commission’s newest member will carry out the remainder of McDonald’s three-year term, which ends in February 2023. Members are permitted to serve on the commission for up to three consecutive terms.

The body has received outsized attention in the past year following several high-profile disciplinary cases and a contentious appointment process earlier this spring. Last fall, commissioners unanimously agreed to fire a former Aurora police officer who transported a woman to jail while she was hobbled, inverted and pleading for help in the back of his cruiser. And in February, members unanimously agreed to uphold Police Chief Vanessa Wilson’s decision to fire a trio of former Aurora officers who posed for and texted one another a photo mocking the death of Elijah McClain last summer.

Also in February, city council members unanimously approved appointments for current members Harold Johnson, a former Denver firefighter, and Brooke Gabrielli, a counselor in the Cherry Creek School District. But several members later reneged on their support for Johnson after reading years-old news reports that detailed his acrimonious departure from a decades-long career with Denver Fire, according to reporting by CBS4.

A 2015 order of disciplinary action from the Denver Fire Department stated that Johnson broke 13 of the entity’s rules, including lying to the internal affairs panel, neglecting his duties and exhibiting “extremely offensive, lewd, lascivious and disrespectful communication to staff.”

Johnson has repeatedly rebuked the statements made in his termination letter.

The two additional members who currently sit on the commission are Barbara Shannon-Banister, a retired city worker, and Jim Weeks, a retired employee of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Unlike members of the city’s other volunteer boards, civil service commissioners are paid for their time, earning $12.32 an hour, according to Matt Cain, Human Resources manager with the city. Commissioners are not eligible to receive benefits.

Residents seeking to join the commission can apply on the city website anytime in the next week. Questions should be referred to the city clerk’s office at 303-739-7094 or [email protected].

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