FAIRBANKS — Fairbanks Chief of Police Randall Aragon is under investigation after being accused of using his position to promote his own business.
The issue dominated discussions at the Fairbanks City Council meeting Monday night at City Hall.
“I try to be transparent, but I’ve been advised by city administration that it’s under investigation, and I’ve been advised not to talk to anyone,” Aragon told the News-Miner in a phone interview. He said he is out of town training at the FBI academy.
The city Human Resources director, Angela Foster-Snow, confirmed a personnel investigation into Aragon’s alleged action was opened Monday.
In a letter emailed Monday to City Council members, former Fairbanks Police Chief Dan Hoffman called for the investigation. Hoffman said during the weekend, he received “a report alleging highly unethical activity by Randall Aragon.”
In the letter, Hoffman said a local business owner called Aragon to discuss “property-crime concerns” and requested police give her business a walk-through assessment and advise on security enhancements.
“She was then told by Chief Aragon that FPD was running short-staffed and that any officers that he could send on such a detail would likely do a very brief, cursory job of little value,” Hoffman writes.
“The chief then offered to do a ‘much more thorough job’ himself, acting in a private-contractor capacity as a ‘Federally Certified Protection Professional.’ The business owner stated that the chief explained that he would take several hours evaluating her property and produce a written report for her use.
“She then stated that he advised his personal fee for rendering such services would be $600, payable directly to him by check,” the letter continues.
According to a business license, Aragon is the sole proprietor of Certified Security Surveys. Under the license, Aragon is authorized to conduct business from March to December.
Mayor John Eberhart made a statement about the chief of police during the City Council meeting.
“This is a serious and disturbing matter,” Eberhart said.
Eberhart said moonlighting is common among employees at City Hall and in the police department. He suggested city code be updated to give employees more guidance. Eberhart said Foster-Snow asked him not to speak to anyone about Aragon’s investigation, including the press.
The mayor also defended himself, saying he was not aware of Aragon carrying out any improprieties.
“I would never allow the selling of a private service through FPD,” Eberhart said.
The public also weighed in on Chief of Police Aragon.
Former Councilwoman Vivian Stiver was first in line for Citizen’s Comments and she read Dan Hoffman’s entire email, which also calls for Aragon’s immediate resignation if the allegations are confirmed.
Frank Turney, who is running for mayor, suggested the city’s Fact Finding Commission be tasked with its own investigation into the matter.
Gerald Harrison, a politically active homeless man, accused Aragon of acting as the mayor’s political arm. Harrison had protested the mayor a couple weeks ago in front of City Hall. Harrison said Aragon confronted him and harassed him for 15 minutes in an attempt to stop the protest. Harrison said this happened despite visiting the police station and checking to see if a protest permit was necessary.
“Your police chief, legally and socially, looks like a wolf to me,” Harrison said.
Not many good things were said about Aragon during the council meeting, but Victor Buburge, who also gave his comments, said Aragon may be the best chief of police Fairbanks has seen in more than 40 years.
Each council member had a different reaction to Aragon’s investigation.
“This is a very serious matter,” Councilman Bernard Gatewood said. “I do agree that when personnel issues come about, they should be handled with care. It’s certainly not the kind of behavior that is acceptable to Bernard Gatewood or Fairbanks.”
Councilwoman June Rogers said she admires Foster-Snow and believes the human resource director’s investigation would be fair.
Councilwoman Joy Huntington said she has faith in Foster-Snow’s ability, but it would strengthen the investigation to have people outside the mayor’s office participate in the investigation. She said it would be easy to lose public trust if the investigation was completed within the mayor’s office. Hungtington said Turney had a good idea in using the Fact Finding Commission.
Councilman Jim Matherly, who is running for mayor, said he was very troubled.
“This is too close to the mayor’s office. I’m really infuriated. This is the chief of police. I’m going to let that sink in,” Matherly said. “With all due respect. This rises above the issue of Angela Foster-Snow. This isn’t just a personnel issue. It’s baloney.”
Matherly said several times an internal investigation would be baloney. He also said the public deserves better transparency.
Although Matherly and Turney have had heated discussions at City Hall, Matherly told Turney he had a good idea.
“That was an interesting meeting,” Councilman David Pruhs said.
Councilman Jerry Cleworth is traveling and was absent from the meeting.
In 2015, Aragon was paid $117,969 as police chief, according to a city of Fairbanks 2015 Annual Payroll Report.
Contact staff reporter Kevin Baird at 459-7575. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMcity.