Alleged affairs led to chief leaving

Published 9:29 am Wednesday, August 18, 2010

By Mike Rose, staff writer

AUSTIN — A co-worker’s claim that former Austin Police Chief Paul Philipp pursued several extramarital affairs while clocked in at work over the course of three years — and that he misused public funds in doing so — led to the chief’s sudden and unexpected retirement in January, according to documents recently obtained by the Austin Daily Herald.

Judy Boorman, Philipp’s former secretary, filed an internal complaint in January that alleged the then-chief used a city vehicle, as well as city landline and cellular telephones, to carry out affairs from late 2000 through 2003. Boorman retired in September 2009 after 22 years with the Austin Police Department.

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Philipp declined to be interviewed for this story, but he did say in an e-mailed statement that he made “mistakes” in his personal life. However, the former chief said his “poor judgment” never affected his job performance, and he stated previously that he retired after the complaint was filed “to spare the Austin police force additional controversy that may be divisive.”

City officials said that the chief’s retirement was his own idea, and that they did not ask him to leave his job after the complaint was filed. Boorman filed the complaint Jan. 5 and received a formal response from the city on Jan. 18 — the day before Philipp announced his retirement. City officials said they took nearly two weeks to respond to Boorman because she had left for vacation right after filing the complaint, which Boorman confirmed.

“I can tell you we didn’t encourage him to step down,” Mayor Tom Stiehm said. “I encouraged him to stay.”

Stiehm said he believes Philipp always did a good job as chief, and that the issues raised in Boorman’s complaint would not have warranted termination if Philipp had tried to stick around through the investigation. When the former chief decided to retire instead, it was on his own accord, Stiehm said.

“It wasn’t our idea,” the mayor added.

Stiehm also said that it was his understanding that Philipp followed city policy and paid for personal calls made on the city-owned cell phone that Boorman alleged the former chief used to contact women.

The city attorney’s office deemed these reimbursement records as private under state law and did not send them to the Herald upon request.

Landline phone records were also not available.

The alleged affairs

Boorman’s complaint states that the first affair began in late 2000 and involved a woman from Alaska. Photocopies of letters addressed to Philipp at the APD, which have been obtained by the Herald, appear to support the claim. In one letter, which appears to have been sent in early 2001, a woman writes that Philipp is “magnificent in every way” and that she “yearns for the day we can share our love in person.” The woman also sent several suggestive photos to the former chief.

Boorman originally opened this letter, as she typically opened Philipp’s non-confidential mail as part of her job. She said she made a copy of this letter for her records, but brought the original to Philipp’s attention.

Subsequent letters from 2002 and 2003, which were also photocopied by Boorman, suggest that Philipp may have carried on affairs with two other women, one from Canada and the other from Randolph, Minn. However, Boorman stated in her complaint — and has said in person — that of greater concern was the fact that Philipp appeared to be carrying on the affairs while clocked in at the APD and while using the city phones.

Cross-referenced city cell phone and timecard records indicate that, on several occasions, calls were made from Philipp’s phone to a Fairbanks, Alaska, number while Philipp was signed in at work for the day. Records also indicate that calls to Alaska from Philipp’s phone were made on several occasions while he was not at work. During one stretch in summer of 2001, while timecards indicate that Philipp was on vacation, 16 calls to Fairbanks were placed from the city cell phone in a two-week period.

A similar pattern continued in late 2002 and into 2003, as cell phone records indicate that a number of calls from Philipp’s phone were made to several cities in Ontario, Canada, on a fairly regular basis. Again, some of the calls were made on days that Philipp was clocked in at work, while others were made while he was on vacation or during weekends. Many of the calls lasted less than 10 minutes, but several were longer, including a 29 minute call placed from Philipp’s phone to Napanee, Ontario, Canada, on Jan. 20, 2003, at 9:44 a.m. According to time card records, the former chief put in a typical eight hours that day, though those records do not specifically indicate what hours the former chief worked.

Philipp said in his statement that he was never derelict of his duties as police chief.

Boorman speaks out

Boorman said in a phone interview that she filed her complaint after she retired because it would have been too hard to do so while still working in the department.

“At the time (of the alleged misconduct), I was 51 years old,” she said. “I planned on working 14 more years. I felt my job could be in jeopardy (if I filed then).”

Boorman added: “It certainly played into my mind.”

The former secretary said she decided to discuss the complaint now to clear up any speculation still lingering in Austin, especially because the city said so little publicly about the complaint or investigation.

“There’s just so much speculation,” Boorman said. “Let’s clear it up.”

She added that she did not go public to humiliate or attack her former boss, but rather to inform citizens.

“Other than the issues raised in the complaint, Paul and I had a very cordial relationship,” Boorman said. “I don’t feel any animosity toward him today.”

Boorman also said Austin residents have a right to know the details of an investigation that she feels was mismanaged.

The former secretary said she was frustrated that she had to do her own fact-finding during the investigation. She also claims no other witnesses ever spoke on record other than herself, which she did with city attorney John Beckmann on Jan. 27.

Overall, Boorman said, the investigation wasn’t thorough, and she feels the city may have been intentionally trying to push the issue aside.

Boorman added that she felt it was wrong that Stiehm — a former police detective and longtime colleague of Philipp’s — made the announcement on Feb. 25 that the city would take no disciplinary action against Philipp, essentially ending any investigation. She also said she felt the city should have used outside legal sources, rather than the city attorney’s office, to look into the case.

“I think it should have been handled differently,” Boorman said. “It should have been given to a third party to investigate.”

City responds

Stiehm and city administrator Jim Hurm both said the city decided not to pursue outside legal counsel — at a cost of potentially tens of thousands of dollars — once they knew Philipp had decided to retire.

“We didn’t feel it was necessary,” Stiehm said. “Why spend $12,000?”

Hurm added that it is standard to refer a case first to the city attorney’s office, then possibly to an outside investigator. In this case, he said, an outside investigation would not have been worth the cost and time, as Philipp simply wanted to step down on his own.

Both also said the Philipp case was different than the investigation into former fire chief Dan Wilson —  who was accused of creating a hostile work environment by a fellow firefighter — last fall. In that case, the city brought in Minneapolis-based attorney Margaret Skelton to handle the bulk of the investigation. Ultimately, Skelton concluded that Wilson had done next to nothing wrong and that the City Council had unnecessarily meddled with the fire department.

Stiehm said that situation involved an unhappy current employee, as well as several council members who clashed with Wilson, which is why the city brought in the third-party source right away.

That investigation was the exception, not the rule, the mayor added.

“It’s very rare for us to go outside the city,” Stiehm said.

And despite Boorman’s claim that the Philipp investigation was mishandled by staying in-house, Stiehm said he felt it was done properly.

“I don’t think Judy can allege the investigation wasn’t thorough,” the mayor said.