The following is a verbatim copy of a letter submitted by recently terminated Police Services Administrator for the Quartzsite Police Department, Janet Brannan, before the police chief was brought back in a coup orchestrated by Councilman Mark Orgeron.
PO Box 4571
Quartzsite, AZ 85359-4571
September 20, 2012
The Honorable Janice K. Brewer
1700 West Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Honorable Tom Horne
Attorney General of the State of Arizona
1275 West Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007-2926
Director, Arizona Department of Public Safety
PO Box 6638
Phoenix, AZ 85005-6638
Honorable Samuel E. Vederman
1320 S Kofa Avenue
Parker, AZ 85344-5724
Honorable Don Lowery
La Paz County Sheriff
1109 Arizona Avenue
Parker, AZ 85344-5743
Re: Disclosure of Information of a Matter of Public Concern Evidencing a Violation of Law,
Mismanagement, a Gross Waste of Money and/or an Abuse of Authority (A.R.S. § 38-532)
Dear Sirs and Madame:
Please let me begin by introducing myself. My name is Janet Brannan and for more than a year I have
been the Police Services Administrator for the Quartzsite Police Department. When I was hired by Chief
Jeff Gilbert, I had known him only socially and found him to be very personable and friendly to me.
While I have never worked in law enforcement before, I have had years of office experience and quickly
realized the administrative office was in complete disarray and completely lacking any kind of order and
efficiency. On my first day, the Chief pointed to the phone and said “I’m going to breakfast” and left me
alone for the majority of the day. The remainder of my in-house training was shockingly similar. Nearly
every time I asked the Chief how something was done, what needed to be done or what reports needed
to be filed with the state’s agencies, I was given the same response: “I don’t know.” It soon became
obvious to me that the Chief had no idea what my job entailed or should entail. Fortunately, I do not
require much supervision and within a short time I was able to not only figure out how to do my job with
little or no help from Chief Gilbert, but managed to make significant improvements in case management
and several other areas of the administration office.
It quickly became clear to me that the morale of the police department, except among Chief Gilbert,
Sergeant Garcia, Sergeant Frausto and, for a time Sergeant Schultz, was nonexistent and that Chief
Gilbert was one of the worst, if not the worst, managers I have ever had. I watched as Chief Gilbert
treated his three favorites (Sergeant’s Frausto, Garcia, and Schultz) very well. They were allowed and
encouraged to take long breakfasts and lunches, told they didn’t have to take calls for service and
rewarded for what, in my estimate, was poor management and leadership and for undermining what
little morale existed among the line officers of the department. In a department as small as ours, it
seems wasteful to not only allow but encourage this lack of work ethic. One thing became extremely
apparent, which was how badly he and Sergeant Garcia treated the patrol officers. I could clearly see
that the Chief played favorites and was clearly discriminatory to Officer’s Felipe Rodriguez, Ruben
Villafana, and Alejandro Ruvalcaba, and in later months, also to Officer Anton Coetzee. The Chief and
Sergeant Garcia treated these four officers in a very demeaning and derogatory manner. Numerous
comments were made by the Chief and Sergeant Garcia about these officers, and because of my work
space being in the center of the department, heard more negative comments than I can count about
these four officers who Chief Gilbert felt were “troublemakers” and “disloyal” to him.
I felt bad for way these officers were being mistreated, and tried to bring the clearly divided department
together. But the more I tried, the more it became clear that Chief Gilbert did not want to improve
morale and improve the departments standing in the community, he wanted these four officers gone.
He derided me for being cordial toward them and even stated to me that one of my greatest
weaknesses was my ability to get along with everyone. Chief Gilbert even went so far as to coerce
Officer Rodriguez into submitting retirement papers by budgeting out his position in the new fiscal year
budget and employing Sergeant Frausto as an intermediary to convince Officer Rodriguez to submit his
Seeing that the department was having clear problems with morale and was negatively perceived by the
community in general, I did things like write press releases praising our department when it was
warranted, and offered to do whatever I could to help improve our image with the community. When I
tried bringing some of my ideas and observations to Chief Gilbert, he either found a reason why he
didn’t want to pursue them, or he just ignored my suggestions altogether. His mismanagement of the
department’s budget is something I addressed with Town Manager Taft as well, as I felt it was my
responsibility to point out areas where he planned to spend money that were unnecessary while cutting
out things that were very important to our officers safety such as training and vehicle replacement. In
addition to budgeting out one of our few officer positions (an eleventh-hour decision not discussed with
the Town Manager) and abandoning any effort to upgrade our aging fleet of patrol cars, Chief Gilbert
submitted a meager training budget and yet found it more important to budget to change the
department’s uniforms, patches and badges.
The conduct that I have found most disturbing throughout this past year, has been that of Jeff Gilbert
and his nearly constant companion, Sergeant Fabiola Garcia. I felt it necessary to speak to Town
Manager Alex Taft about some of the problems I was noticing in the department. Some of the concerns I
reported were Chief Gilbert and Sergeant Garcia’s inappropriate relationship and the constant amount
of time they spent together. While I understand that, as adults, sometimes relationships develop
between co-workers that lead to office affairs and the subsequent aftermath may be messy and ugly,
sometimes they work out and everyone lives happily ever after. What I do not approve of, is that one set
of employees being treated badly and retaliated against simply because they do not worship the ground
on which Chief Gilbert and his protégé and probable mistress walk.
When I spoke to Town Manager Taft about my concerns regarding the observations I had been making
within the police department, she reassured me that the Chief’s actions were being observed and
documented by herself and Assistant Town Manager Al Johnson, and would be acted upon when the
time was right. She advised me that I was doing a wonderful job improving not only the functionality of
the department, but the morale of the officers as well. I am aware that there is an ongoing law suit filed
by several former officers of the police department, so I knew that personnel matters had to be
addressed very carefully and strategically.
The final straw for Town Manager Taft appeared to be an apparently criminal act pertaining to an
allegedly falsified time card submitted by Sergeant Garcia and approved by Chief Gilbert. Sergeant
Garcia claimed she worked nine hours, with one hour of vacation used, but was actually with Chief
Gilbert in Phoenix and was only in Quartzsite for less than six hours of her ten hour shift. When Ms. Taft
learned about and took action concerning this action by placing Chief Gilbert and Garcia on
administrative leave and requesting that the Department of Public Safety conduct an investigation into
the fraud, the Town of Quartzsite Common Council quickly placed her on administrative leave. The Chief
of Police answers to the Town Manager, and her decision to place both Chief Gilbert and Sergeant
Garcia on administrative leave while the Department of Public Safety conducts a criminal investigation is
entirely within her discretion both pursuant to town code and Gilbert’s contract. In a maneuver that
completely violates Town code, the Council members placed items on the next council agenda to fire
Ms. Taft and Assistant Town Manager Al Johnson, who had angered Chief Gilbert by reinstating Officers
Villafana, Ruvalcaba and Rodriguez over Gilbert’s vehement objection, and reinstate Chief Gilbert and
Sergeant Garcia. Before the council meeting, the council members were served with a temporary
restraining order granted by La Paz County Superior Court Judge Michael Burke to keep the council from
breaking the law by acting on these personnel issues in clear violation of town code. At that meeting,
Ms. Taft was placed on administrative leave, and the council did not act against Mr. Johnson or in favor
of Gilbert and Garcia.
Now, the Common Council, at an extension of the next regular meeting and clearly against the advice of
its attorney that it had to create a position in order to do so, hired a person, Laura Bruno (of CASA fame
perform the duties of town manager at a salary equivalent to an annual salary of over $96,000 even
while paying Ms Taft well over $70,000 annually to do the same job. Although the agenda was written
in such a way to permit public comment, the Council, in an apparent act of cowardice and caprice,
refused to accept any public input before approving a contract, which couldn’t have been reviewed by
the Town Attorney as required by town code inasmuch as he was excluded from the executive session
preceding her appointment, with Bruno by a vote of 5 to 1.
Because the existing Town Manager had not even received notice of the reasons for being placed on
administrative leave let alone been fired, the Town Attorney apparently told the Town Council that it
needed to create a position for Bruno on the 11th of September, given the absence of any action to
create such a position on the agenda for the 11th and the presence of an item on the agenda for the
meeting on the 12th – her identity had not been disclosed at this time, so it’s not clear whether the Town
Attorney knew who was being considered for the position but the Council seemingly knew – to fill and
then fill that position if they wanted to have someone, other than an existing town employee, serve as
Town Manager while Taft was incapacitated. Because the council wanted to fill this position
immediately – how the Council knew that they would be able to fill this position immediately without
violating open meeting laws remains a mystery – any such ordinance creating the position would have
to be passed as an emergency measure.
Apparently realizing that he didn’t have the votes to pass an emergency measure, Council Member Mark
Orgeron and the Council amended the agenda and moved instead to hire Bruno, apparently hand-picked
by Mr. Orgeron and pre-approved by a majority of the council, to fill the position that Ms. Taft already
filled and, to this date, continues to fill. They rushed this deal through in Executive Session and
deliberately excluded the Town Attorney, who has a contractual and lawful duty to be present when the
council negotiates a contract. How paying two people to do the same job while one of them appears to
have been illegally hired and filling the position of the other and the other is made to sit at home
without even being told what, other than do her job in accordance with town code, she had done to
warrant such punishment must, at the very least, be a gross waste of the town’s limited resources.
Between the time that the Town council placed Ms. Taft on administrative leave without notice as to
why, and the appointment of Mrs. Bruno to fill the position already filled by Taft, assistant town
manager, as authorized by then acting Town Manager Terry Frausto, terminated Gilbert’s contract
based on gross negligence and willful misconduct including issuing a press release which falsely claimed
that he had been “exonerated” of misconduct by an Department of Public Safety. The report, by Special
Investigator Peter White, apparently falls short of providing the Attorney General with sufficient
evidence of criminal conduct to establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt, could not be seen by any
reasonable person as having exonerating Gilbert. To the contrary, at the very least, the report makes a
case that Gilbert attempted to influence a witness in an administrative investigation and either
criminally misused the Arizona Criminal Justice Information System or was so out of touch with his
duties as chief of police permitted those he was supposed to be supervising to criminally misuse the
system through gross negligence. Given the lack of management I have personally witnessed by Chief
Gilbert, I personally believe he was completely out of touch and unaware of not only what his
employees were doing, but also that he had no idea what they were even supposed to be doing. How
can he know if I am doing my job if he doesn’t know what my job even is?
The very first action taken by Bruno was to do the very first thing that the Superior Court forbade the
Council from doing in the Temporary Restraining Order – take a negative personnel action against Mr.
Johnson. Although Bruno initially told members of town staff shortly after telling Johnson he was on
administrative leave and to get his stuff out of his office and vacate the premises (under police escort)
that her reason for doing so was that he had blocked her from entering town hall. When asked by an
employee at an impromptu meeting on the day Mr. Johnson was placed on administrative leave – after
telling the staff everyone would get a fair shake – how they could trust that statement after Mr. Johnson
was placed on administrative leave for doing his job, Bruno said words to the effect of “I don’t like your
tone young lady, I know more than you do and deserve some respect.” Two days later she told the press
at a hastily announced press conference that Mr. Johnson had exceeded his authority by terminating
Chief Gilbert’s contract and that’s why he was placed on leave. Mr. Johnson, who wasn’t at the meeting
during which Bruno was illegally, or at the least wastefully, hired to fill the position still filled by Ms Taft,
had been appointed a building security officer months earlier and was merely doing his job by
confronting someone he did not know from entering into the administrative part of the building, making
her alleged motivation clearly arbitrary and capricious. Interestingly, and clearly in violation of his right
to due process, Mr. Johnson has never been told why he is on admin leave, but rather has been told that
his administrative leave is indefinite and without reason or cause. If the town had a legitimate reason
for placing Mr. Johnson on administrative leave, why is it wasting money paying him?
This change in theory makes it absolutely clear that Bruno either lied to the staff, or she lied to the
press. This is not to say it’s not impossible that she lied to the staff and the press, and that the real
reason Mr. Johnson was punished was that one or more members of the Council, in violation of Section
3-2-1(F) of the Town Code, directed or requested that she punish Johnson. Also calling into question
Bruno’s motives is the fact that Bruno’s husband is one of a very few inspectors of back-flow devices
(intended to ensure that people connected to the town’s water supply who insist on using their own
wells do not contaminate the town’s water supply). Because the Bruno’s leave Quartzsite every year as
the weather changes and the desert becomes difficult to live in, Bruno’s husband’s schedule caused
major problems for the town which requires annual inspections and to homeowners who have been
subjected to receiving their two annual inspections essentially back-to-back resulting in being charged
for two inspections within weeks, if not just a few months of each other. After receiving multiple
complaints about Bruno’s husband, Mr. Johnson warned him that his conduct was imperiling his
business license and the town stopped recommending Mr. Bruno when homeowners asked for the
names of qualified backflow inspectors.
Given that Bruno has already done the first thing the Council wanted to do but was forbidden by the
Superior Court from doing directly, it isn’t at all surprising that the second thing she did was to
countermand Mr. Johnson’s termination of Gilbert’s contract, falsely stating that Mr. Johnson had not
been given the authority to terminate Gilbert’s contract. Now, the Council has published an agenda for
the meeting to be held on September 25, 2012 calls for the council to direct (once again in clear
violation of town code) her to either terminate Gilbert’s contract or, more likely given her response to
my earlier complaint of difficult/uncomfortable work environment, enter into a new extended contract
Why all of these things happened is a matter of speculation, of course, but certain events suggest that a
former council member and unsuccessful mayoral candidate who is also a friend of Gilbert’s, has
persuaded, through some fashion, the Council to act to save Gilbert’s job and punish Ms. Taft and Mr.
Johnson for having the audacity to hold Gilbert to the same rules that he expected the six police officers
and one administrative staff member to be subjected to when they were terminated by the Town after
making an ill-fated effort to blow the whistle on Gilbert’s conduct in 2011.
Following the May 15, 2012 general election, the Town Council refused to seat two of the candidates
garnering the most votes. They refused to seat Mark Orgeron, because less than a year before the
election he was a qualified voter in Yuma County precluding him from being a resident of Quartzsite for
voting purposes for the year preceding the May 15, 2012 election. They also refused to seat Edward
Foster because, in violation of town code, Foster owes and refuses to pay a penalty to the Town
imposed by the Superior Court after he filed a frivolous suit against the town and failed to appear to
prosecute the frivolous suit.
The aforementioned former council member and runner-up in the May 15, 2012 mayoral election, Jerry
Lukkasson first approached Ms. Taft and Mr. Johnson and insisted that he be put on the agenda to fill
the seat declared vacant by the Council’s finding that Orgeron was disqualified. Ms. Taft and Mr.
Johnson informed Lukkasson that this matter was being litigated (the litigation was dropped after the
Council determined that Orgeron, though not eligible to run on May 15, 2012 was qualified to be
appointed after his residency exceeded one year and appointed him to fill the vacancy created by their
earlier determination that he was not qualified to run).
Lukkasson then insisted that he be put on the agenda to be appointed mayor. Ms. Taft and Mr. Johnson
then advised Lukkasson that this seat was also the subject of litigation (and remains so) and could not be
filled until the ordinance was cleared by the Justice Department (which it was) and found to be
permitted by state law (which it has not yet been).
Lukkasson then showed Ms. Taft an envelope that he claimed contained proof that Council Member
Carol Kelley had misused funds while the director of the Quartzsite Senior Center. Lukkasson suggested
that Ms. Taft advise Ms. Kelley that he had this information and suggest that she resign her position on
the Council so that he could be put on the agenda to fill her position. Ms Taft told Lukkasson that if
Lukkasson had evidence of a crime, he should tell the police. Lukkasson then approached Mr. Johnson
with the same story. Mr. Johnson reacted more incredulously and told Lukkasson to engage in sexual
relations with himself, although not in such a delicate manner.
I believe that Lukkasson’s failed attempts to get Ms. Taft and Mr. Johnson to get him a council seat –
why he thought he would be appointed if placed on the agenda is a testament either to his ego or his
political pull – and to act as his agent in blackmailing Ms. Kelley, along with this friendship with Gilbert
has led to the improper placement of Ms. Taft and Mr. Johnson on administrative leave and in
persuading, through whatever means, the Council to get Gilbert back to work. Especially Orgeron,
whose campaign included a promise to rid the town of Gilbert. One theory would certainly be that, if, as
Detective White thought a possibility, Gilbert misused ACJIS out of friendship to Lukkasson and others,
Orgeron now sees the political upside to having Gilbert as a political ally.
Of additional concern, is that a complaint raised by Officer Anton Coetzee and investigated Mr. Johnson
will result in Officer Coetzee, who is on probation until October 17, 2012, will be terminated in
retaliation for his having made the complaint. Gilbert implied as much in his response to Officer
Coetzee’s complaint when he wrote words to the effect that when the investigation was complete,
Gilbert would deal with Coetzee summarily using his own authority.
In the complaint, which Mr. Johnson found meritorious, Coetzee raised several concerns. First, he was
“ambushed” by Gilbert and Garcia by being lured into what was originally characterized as a talk about
new department policies which quickly turned into an inquisition which, under state law, should have
resulted in Officer Coetzee being informed of his right to have a representative present with him and to
take breaks to consult with counsel when he thought it appropriate.
Also during this inquisition, Coetzee made a complaint that changing this schedule without notice wasn’t
healthy for him because, being diabetic; his body requires time to adjust to change. Mr. Johnson found
that Gilbert not only failed to consider this concern and offer or even consider a reasonable
accommodation, Gilbert dismissed Coetzee’s health concern as wholly unimportant to him.
Even more disturbingly, Gilbert told Coetzee that the department had a “quota” policy because the
department wasn’t bringing in revenue for the town and needed to be. Gilbert told Coetzee that every
officer was to write three citations per shift. This is certainly not any policy that I have ever heard of or
any that I can imagine the Council or Administration approving of.
Although undoubtedly ignored, if not destroyed by Bruno, Mr. Johnson found the conduct of Gilbert,
when combined with other misconduct, cause to terminate Gilbert’s contract and to demote Garcia,
who was promoted to Sergeant while still on probation as an officer and was in a probationary status as
a Sergeant, be demoted to Officer should she be cleared during the pending DPS criminal investigation.
Mr. Johnson also ordered that the complaint and his conclusions be shared with Arizona POST because
he found a statement made by Gilbert to be dishonest and for POST to use as additional background in
its ongoing investigation into Gilbert’s conduct. A copy of the Coetzee’s initial grievance, the nearly two
hour browbeating that the Chief recorded without Coetzee’s knowledge, the complaint and all its
attachments were sent to Arizona POST by me pursuant to Mr. Johnson’s instructions.
Although the complaint is a Police Department record, Town Clerk Frausto, at the insistence of Bruno,
insisted that the original documents be turned over to her. Copies were kept at the police department,
but it is impossible for me, as the custodian of records, to say what has happened to the original
documents which I provided to the town clerk at the insistence of acting Chief of Police, Sergeant James
Schultz. I am glad that I sent the entire investigation to POST in the event that it is destroyed or
misplaced by Bruno.
Before Mr. Johnson was placed on administrative leave, he spoke with Acting Chief, Sergeant James
Schultz and determined that there was sufficient need to place Schultz on light duty status because of
the inundation of complaints, always informal, Schultz has made concerning the condition of his knees.
Schultz, a reserve Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve, has said, repeatedly that his knees are “shot”
and that he is disappointed in the small level of disability pay he has been offered by the Veterans’
Administration given just how truly bad his knees are. He has claimed that, although he can run a short
time if necessary, afterward his knees swell so badly that he can barely walk and that he intends, with
the assistance of the DAV, to get his disability increased. Although Gilbert was aware of this constant
complaining, he never took action. This should have been a matter that concerned Chief Gilbert greatly,
since Schultz could be forced to chase a suspect at any time, give aid to a fellow officer, and because of
his injured knees, might pose an injury risk to himself, to others, and a great liability to the Town of
After acting Town Manager Frausto delegated her authority regarding the police department to Mr.
Johnson, Mr. Johnson issued an order to Schultz, pursuant to Town Personnel Policy, instructing Schultz
to perform light duty until he is cleared medically for patrol duty. Mr. Johnson’s concerns reportedly
stemmed from his concern that, if Schultz’s knees were as bad as he claimed, he poses a risk to the
other officers he patrols with, the public he is charged with protecting and the town if he later claims
that his injuries were caused or exacerbated by his duties as a patrol officer. Following his placement on
administrative leave, Schultz was, apparently at his own insistence, restored to full duty and, if he is
being honest with the Veterans Administration, continues to pose a real and present risk to public
Additionally, I am concerned about recent statements by Bruno which suggests frequent and flagrant
violations of Arizona Open Meeting Laws. During a meeting with the Police Department personnel on
Sept. 19th, Bruno claimed to have received clear marching orders from the Council concerning certain
actions. Considering that there have been no public meetings since her appointment, that the agenda
for the last meeting she could have gotten those instructions from did not include anything which would
have permitted the Council to give her clear marching orders except for an executive session which was,
by its terms, only supposed to involve discussion of her contract, this certainly invites inquiry into when
and how she got these clear marching orders from the Council.
Recent internet posts indicate that Bruno has been meeting secretly with the Council, by secretly I mean
without a recording or minutes of what is occurring, in groups of three. These meetings include alleged
meetings about the performance of employees who were given no notice whatsoever of the fact that
their employment was being discussed or of the contents of these discussions without regard to any due
process rights they might have. Whether these three plus three meetings involve differing groups of
three people is beyond my information, the fact that Bruno is claiming that she received clear marching
orders from the council (not a sense of what the council wants or a consensus of what the council is
looking for, but clear marching orders), surely cannot be permissible.
In addition to these issues, I raised the concerns contained in a letter addressed to then acting Town
Manager Terry Frausto and Personnel Officer Al Johnson on September 12, 2012 and have attached a
copy to this letter. I have also attached a copy of the undated reply I received from Bruno on September
18, 2012 and my reply thereto on September 21st.
As I told Bruno in my reply to her September 18 letter, I love my job and all I am asking for is to do it in
an environment that is safe, healthy, productive and free from the threat of retaliation. Given what I
have seen over the last year and my sincere belief that Gilbert, if reinstated on September 25, 2012, as it
now appears to be, I have signed my own employment death warrant. Whether I will be summarily
terminated or just made so miserable that I finally just cannot take the stress anymore, I have no doubt
that my career will come to an end.
Even so, what I wrote in the attached letters and in the foregoing is absolutely true to the best of my
knowledge and on information and belief obtained from reliable sources, and I feel it is essential that
someone outside of the town look into these serious allegations, even if it costs me my position as
Police Services Administrator. I implore you to look into these allegations and put a stop to these illegal
actions, mismanagement and gross waste of public money.
Letter from Janet Brannan to Al Johnson/Terry Frausto
Response from Laura Bruno
Reply from Janet Brannan
Anton Coetzee “Grievance” and attachments
Audio Recording of Coetzee’s “Counseling”
Memo to Sergeant Schultz re: Physical Examination