Burlington police chief Brandon del Pozo sent emails, directed subordinates and participated in an on-camera interview with a local television station, all while he was on administrative leave after admitting to misbehavior on social media, according to emails obtained by Seven Days.
Mayor Miro Weinberger placed del Pozo on paid administrative leave at 10:15 a.m. on Monday, July 29. The night before, the chief told the mayor he’d created an anonymous Twitter account to harass department critic Charles Winkleman. He also acknowledged he’d misled a Seven Days reporter when she asked him about it.
The chief surrendered his gun, badge, and city-issued cellphone, and the mayor told him to stay off social media, Weinberger has said in interviews. Human resources director Deanna Paluba met with del Pozo on July 29 and directed him to not work while he was being investigated, she said.
But del Pozo still had access to email and continued to direct some department business for three days, up until August 1, when his paid leave turned into medical leave. He also continued tweeting during those days.
Weinberger said on Thursday that he was unaware del Pozo had disregarded his instruction. The mayor reviewed the emails obtained by Seven Days and said it appeared that del Pozo had only taken a few “substantive” actions while on leave.
Indeed, the majority of the 19 emails del Pozo sent were relatively inconsequential. On Monday night, del Pozo emailed Deputy Chief Jan Wright about releasing a traffic report with a two-word directive: “Send it.” On Tuesday, he forwarded an email with the subject line “Kudos for a job well done!” to police department brass after officers helped a troubled citizen earlier that day.
Other emails were more troubling to Weinberger and his staff — particularly one that shows del Pozo arranged an interview about department traffic-stop data with WCAX-TV hours after he’d been placed on leave, they said.
Del Pozo speaking to WCAX the day he was placed on administrative leave
According to the email chain, WCAX reporter Erin Brown had written del Pozo the prior Friday to set up the TV spot. On Monday at 4:20 p.m., del Pozo emailed Brown to “swing by at 4:45 if you can.”
The interview subsequently ran on the news. In the clip, del Pozo is shown at the Burlington Police Department headquarters at One North Avenue wearing a police windbreaker over a button-down shirt and tie. Weinberger said his staff did not know about the TV interview. Del Pozo had been directed to stay home that day.
“If we had seen it, we would have been quite unhappy because it definitely was a direct violation of the direction that I had given him,” the mayor said.
On July 31, a South Burlington police officer emailed Burlington police to ask for assistance with the execution of a search warrant on August 2. At 5:24 p.m., del Pozo wrote to Deputy Chief Jon Murad, “Send the ERV,” referring to the department’s $157,000 emergency response vehicle.
Del Pozo also tweeted several times over those three days of administrative leave, posting local news stories about Burlington Police Department activities and responding directly to a civilian’s question about fentanyl test strips, his Twitter page shows.
“Had we been aware of that, we would have told him to stop,” Weinberger said of del Pozo’s emails. “Maybe we would have taken some further action.”
Del Pozo’s administrative leave became an absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act on August 1, because the city determined that mental health issues were involved. The city announced around 5:30 p.m. on August 2 that del Pozo was on leave. The chief stayed out for six weeks, and no further explanation was given to the public at the time.
Del Pozo returned to work September 16. On December 12, in response to renewed questions from Seven Days, del Pozo admitted that he had previously lied about making the anonymous Twitter account to troll Winkleman. That same day, Weinberger acknowledged for the first time that he had placed del Pozo on leave because of those actions.
Del Pozo resigned on December 16. Seven Days requested various public records related to the matter on December 18. On Wednesday, the city turned over the emails that showed del Pozo continued to work.
Seven Days subsequently asked the city for documentation of del Pozo’s administrative leave. Jordan Redell, the mayor's chief of staff, provided an email from July 29 in which Weinberger informed HR director Paluba of del Pozo's change in status. The city has no other written documentation, Redell confirmed.
Paluba acknowledged she didn't provide del Pozo with written notice that he was on administrative leave as required by the city personnel handbook, nor had she informed payroll of the chief's change in status. Paluba, whom the mayor appointed in March 2019, said that in July, she was still a relatively new employee and wasn’t familiar with the procedures around administrative leave.
“I don’t know what the relevance of this is to public safety,” Paluba said, later adding that her investigation was “a very, very stressful few days.”
“I would take full responsibility for that,” Paluba said of the paperwork mistake.
Redell said that Seven Days' inquiries this week prompted Paluba to retroactively change del Pozo's payroll designation to reflect his employment status at the start of his leave.
Del Pozo did not respond to an interview request. On Thursday, he tweeted that he'd earned his PhD in political philosophy from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York.
FILE: Luke Awtry
Jan Wright, Miro Weinberger and Jon Murad
Meanwhile, a second police administrator remains on leave in a related matter. Weinberger appointed deputy chief Jan Wright acting chief the day that del Pozo resigned. But she was removed from the post hours later, after she told the mayor that she had created her own anonymous social media persona, Lori Spicer.