Friday, June 28, 2013
Editorial - Two years later, what has changed?
It was two years ago today that the Quartzsite Police illegally removed me from the Town Council Meeting, permanently injuring my arm in the process. The Town was determined to have violated Open Meeting Law, but Attorney General Tom Horne did not exercise his right to remove the members of council who directed this, he instead ordered they attend training which they had already had less than a year earlier. He also chose not to prosecute Police Chief Gilbert or Officers Rick Paterson and Fabiola Garcia, citing "no likelihood of conviction."
So what has happened to this cast of colorful characters in the last two years? Mayor Ed Foster was recalled by supporters of the police chief, then re-elected and is the current Mayor of Quartzsite.
Vice Mayor Barbara Cowell and Councilman Joe Winslow lost their bid for re-election last year. However, they initially refused to step down forcing an election challenge in federal court (Orgeron v Quartzsite) and AZ Superior Court, where then County Attorney Sam Vederman filed a Quo Warranto and then a Mandamus to seat Mayor Foster. Before stepping down, they voted to appoint their friend Norma Crooks to a vacant seat on the council in what may very well have been an illegal meeting.
Councilwoman Patricia Anderson resigned earlier this year, shortly after having to sign a sworn affidavit with the Attorney General's office, regarding alleged open meeting law violation.
Councilman Jerry Lukkasson resigned to run for mayor and lost by a substantial margin to Ed Foster.
Town Manager Alex Taft was eventually terminated and replaced with an even more controversial Town Manager, Laura Bruno.
Assistant Town Manager/Planning and Zoning Director Al Johnson was also fired. He was replaced by his protege "Community Development Director" Steve Henrichs, who continues the pattern and practice of selective enforcement.
Police Chief Jeff Gilbert's contract was renewed and he received a raise. Last Summer, he was placed on administrative leave by Taft and Johnson while he was under DPS investigation for falsifying Fabiola Garcia's time card. He was reinstated by Bruno.
Officer Rick Paterson was promoted to detective and allowed to "investigate" me for another matter, which resulted in another false arrest, the charges being vacated by the county attorney for lack of a complaint. It became public record through sworn testimony to the state personnel board that Paterson was having an affair with Taft, and they eventually moved in together. Paterson was involved in a high speed pursuit last fall that resulted in the death of Quartzsite resident Karen Herrin.
Fabiola Garcia was promoted to sergeant.
Police Administrator Linda Conley was fired for filing complaints against Chief Gilbert, and now works for the La Paz County Attorney's Office. She was replaced by Janet Brannan, wife of Town Attorney Martin Brannan. Both Brannans were fired by Bruno. Councilman Jewitt's step son is performing administrative duties for the QPD now.
Three of the officers who filed complaints against Chief Gilbert were rehired because nobody else wanted the job. Officers Villafania, Ruvalcaba and Rodriguez are still working for QPD.
Officer Steve Frakes retired.
The remaining officers who filed formal complaints against Chief Gilbert all passed lie detector tests and were hired by the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT).
Arizona Police Officers Standards and Training Board has taken no action to decertify any of the officers, or the police chief.
The Town's insurer, Arizona Municipal Risk Retention Pool (AMRRP) discontinued coverage because the town set a record for lawsuits filed in a two year period and the Town was forced to purchase private insurance.
And the drama continues...