Mesa police disciplined in an e-mail scandal last year are taking the city to court, claiming City Manager Chris Brady overstepped his bounds in doling out their punishment.
The 62 officers and two police civilian employees are challenging Brady’s implementation of a disciplinary process created after the offenses occurred. They are asking for the city to rescind their suspensions and give them back pay and attorneys’ fees.
In paperwork filed Monday in Maricopa County Superior Court and in a pending complaint expected to be filed this week, the employees and officers question Brady’s authority to punish them, instead of allowing the police department to handle the discipline.
Brady declined to talk about the matter due to the ongoing litigation. City spokesman Steve Wright forwarded all inquiries to City Attorney Debbie Spinner.
“We feel the actions of the city were appropriate in this case,” Spinner said.
Brady set a citywide standard for punishment, instead of allowing each department to discipline its employees. The situation also prompted the city to begin future random e-mail checks to ensure employees weren’t using it inappropriately.
The citywide investigation into a year’s worth of e-mails was prompted by a sexual harassment claim. Officials found several e-mails contained inappropriate content, from insensitive jokes to sexually explicit information. The review resulted in the discipline of 521 city workers, including 266 at the police department.
Punishments included written reprimands and suspensions ranging from 16 hours to 240 hours.
Bryan Soller, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Arizona State Lodge Mesa Lodge 9, contends the city violated its own policy by not allowing each department to handle the discipline of its employees.
Sgt. Fabian Cota, president of the Mesa Police Association, said officers had sought a solution that would have called for the punishment of the most serious offenders. The others would have been educated about the e-mail policy.
“A lot of guys said they didn’t ever know there was a city policy,” Cota said.
The court process began in September when officers filed a special action complaint against the city and Brady.
Attorney Michael Napier, who represents the 45 officers from the Mesa Police Association, filed their opening brief on Monday. The city’s attorney, Michael Sillyman, will have until March 5 to respond.
An oral argument is scheduled for April 13 before Judge Douglas L. Rayes. However, it is yet to be determined if Napier’s case will ever get that far. On Jan. 26, Sillyman asked that the case be dismissed since Napier didn’t file a notice of claim, which he said is required when seeking money from a governmental body. The judge still has to rule on that motion.
In a separate case, attorney Kent Komadina is putting the final touches on a notice of claim he will file soon in Maricopa County Superior Court on behalf of 17 officers and two civilian employees.
Komadina, who represents Fraternal Order of Police members, said he may file the complaint this week.