In a special meeting held before the regular meeting, Parker Town Council voted to place Police Chief Rodney Mendoza on administrative leave last night.
According to the agenda the purpose of the meeting was:
1. Discussion and possible action to convene into an Executive Session pursuant to
A. R. S. § 38-431.03A (1) for the purpose of:
a. Discussion regarding the job performance and evaluation of the Chief of Police
2. Approve/Deny placing the Chief of Police on administrative leave
3. Approve/Deny appoint an Interim Chief of Police
No explanation was given in support of the vote, but the action follows allegations of sexual harassment against Chief Mendoza by the wife of Parker Police Sergeant Mike Thompson. Parker Mayor Dan Beaver assured concerned citizens "There is an ongoing investigation at this moment, not only by DPS but by our own HR Department, and there are two people working on it and I want the public to know that."
However, it has been confirmed that DPS is not investigating Mendoza regarding sexual harassment, but they are investigating him over another unrelated complaint. Private investigator Jim Humpreys was reportedly hired by Town Manager Lori Wedemeyer to look into the sexual harassment matter. Humphreys is the same P.I. hired by the neighboring Town of Quartzsite, AZ last summer to investigate Town allegations of voter fraud that proved to be unfounded.
At last night's meeting during the "Call to the Public", Parker resident Launa Wilson told the Council that Wedemeyer should not be in charge of the investigation because she had an affair with Mendoza. After the meeting, Councilwoman Christine Boatwright instigated a verbal altercation in the parking lot with Wilson and a woman named Tiffany Dunlap, who also spoke critically of the Town's handling of the Thompson matter.
No interim chief was officially appointed at the special meeting, but many believe that Mendoza's duties will be assumed by Sergeant Clay Romo.
Lorrie Thomson states that her job at the Parker Funeral Home requires interaction with her husband's boss, Chief Mendoza, because the La Paz County Coroner is located there. This provided a premise for Mendoza to have unwanted contact with Thompson which escalated, culminating in a kiss which took place in his office she asserts. After making a written complaint to the Town Council, Thompson was demoted at her job.
The Honorable Jill Davis issued an injunction against Mendoza on July 8th, 2013 which prohibited him from having contact with Thompson. Mendoza requested a hearing and Judge Pro Tem "Mike" Dunbar dismissed the injunction on August 15th. Mendoza did not take the stand in his own defense and his attorney Michael Frame called no witnesses, choosing instead to attack "the voracity" of Thompson and her testimony. She admitted into evidence recent text messages by Mendoza, but did not present the secret audio recordings which had been given to the La Paz County Sheriff's Office. When asked why the judge who issued the injunction did not preside over the hearing, Mojave County Court Clerk Carol Henry responded, "There was no assignment, Judge Dunbar just happened to be on the bench and he saw the case that day." Thompson is expected to appeal Dunbar's ruling.
According to Thompson, despite the awkwardness of the situation she remained polite to Chief Mendoza out of concern for her husband's job with the Department. Mendoza has declined to make a public statement thus far.
The Parker Town Council had received legal advice and declined to take action against Mendoza at another special meeting on July 31st, 2013.
Rumors have been circulating that another woman may come forward and it has been alleged that Mendoza had very similar issues when he was a Captain at the Ventura County, CA Sheriff's Department.. He is currently married to 1994 Miss La Paz County Leean Hendrix - Mendoza. Reportedly, Mendoza's previous wife was the ex wife of one of his sergeants while working in Ventura, and she left him for having an alleged inter office affair, then the alleged relationship with Wedemeyer, then Hendrix, but this has not yet been confirmed.
Thompson maintains that she has additional evidence not submitted to the court, but has provided the following text messages that were submitted into evidence at the August 15th hearing.
Thompson testified that she agreed to meet with Police Chief Mendoza to find out what he really wanted from her, but most believe it was to get him on the record about it with a hidden recorder.
Thompson's comments are in the green bubbles, Mendoza's in the white bubbles ("smart phone" text messages).