Fairbanks Police Department Chief Randall Aragon, who was on administrative leave as he was investigated over conflict-of-interest allegations tied to his private security firm, was reinstated Wednesday by Mayor John Eberhart.
City of Fairbanks spokeswoman Tammy Misrasi announced Aragon's return to "all duties" at Eberhart's order in a brief statement Wednesday. Two investigations into Aragon's conduct remain open: one overseen by City of Fairbanks human-resources director Angela Foster-Snow and another ordered by the Fairbanks City Council.
Eberhart, the city's outgoing mayor, lost a bid for re-election last week against councilman Jim Matherly, who had called for an independent body to investigate the conflict-of-interest claims.
Aragon was placed on paid leave Sept. 21, over a claim that he told a business owner seeking a security evaluation of her establishment by police that officers were too busy to do so — but that his business could take the job on for $600.
In a follow-up statement Wednesday, Eberhart said the Sunday shooting that wounded police Sgt. Allen Brandt, in which 29-year-old Anthony George Jenkins-Alexie was arrested on attempted-murder charges, "called for the chief to be at his command post."
Eberhart emphasized that the city's conflict-of-interest case so far produced "no finding that would warrant corrective or disciplinary action" against Aragon, adding that the police department remains short-staffed.
"The investigation was the result of secondhand allegations," Eberhart wrote. "It is important to minimize any possible liability of the City since it is premature to assume that there was wrongdoing, contrary to some statements made in public."
The allegations were first brought to the attention of the Fairbanks City Council in a letter from former Fairbanks Police Chief Dan Hoffman.
In an email Wednesday, Hoffman criticized Eberhart's decision in light of Matherly's imminent term as mayor starting next week.
"For the mayor to make this reinstatement with only a few days left in office, especially in light of the fact that the investigation is still ongoing, is deeply troubling," Hoffman wrote in an email.
Neither Matherly nor Foster-Snow was immediately available for comment Wednesday afternoon.