Mesa police union official reassigned after run-in with San Diego officers - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Mesa police union official reassigned after run-in with San Diego officers

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Posted: Tuesday, June 7, 2011 11:50 am | Updated: 5:39 pm, Tue Jun 7, 2011.

Mesa Police Association President Fabian Cota has stepped aside from his police union duties after he was detained during a public intoxication and disorderly conduct-related incident in San Diego over the weekend, triggering an internal investigation here in Mesa.

The incident involved Cota, a sergeant, screaming names at the San Diego police officer who confronted two women Cota was with who appeared too intoxicated to drive early Saturday.

Cota, who currently is on probation for an incident in connection with a union election, was placed on administrative re-assignment and remains working, according to Sgt. Ed Wessing, a Mesa police spokesman. The department’s personal conduct policies are being reviewed to see whether Cota violated any of them, Wessing said.

Wessing told the Tribune that Mesa was informed of the incident Saturday morning, but they were not aware of what Cota was yelling at the officers who detained him.

Under California’s public intoxication laws, Cota was not booked into the city jail or charged because he agreed to being held for four hours for detoxification and paid a $50 fee, Wessing said.

Pending the outcome of the investigation, Cota could be facing disciplinary actions ranging from suspension to termination.

Cota could not be reached immediately for comment.

Cota spoke out last month against a three-day suspension without pay and one year’s disciplinary probation he received last fall upon allegations of untruthfulness in connection with the release of a list of police officers’ contact information during the meet-and-confer election between Mesa’s two police unions, the MPA and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 9. He had said then that he was reviewing all of his options and considered suing the city because he says his due process rights were violated during the investigation, which he believes was racially motivated.

Meet-and-confer allows a police union to meet with city officials when issues or grievances arise. The MPA won the election in October after the city deemed the initial election in February 2010 invalid amid claims from the FOP against Cota, which accused him of elections tampering when public resources were not supposed to be used during the campaign. The contact lists of officers eligible to vote was supposed to remain confidential.

In a 222-page report issued by the Mesa Police Department’s internal investigations unit and released early last month, assistant chief John Meza said Cota didn’t intend to be untruthful, but failed to properly report the use of the employee list.

Cota said he did not do any police union work on the clock, and that he provided the list to Williams and Associates, a lobbying firm the MPA worked with. Williams and Associates was going to mail the information to officers’ homes, something Cota said the FOP was also having done. Cota said he did not know how the Arizona Police Association, which emailed the list to eligible voters, received it.

Investigators initially recommended that Cota be fired for the claims against him, and later reduced the charges down to a 36-hour suspension before dropping it down to a 24 hours, which Cota served late last year.

The MPA’s executive board on Tuesday released the following statement:

“President Fabian Cota was involved in an incident that led to an administrative complaint. We are confident President Cota will receive due process like any other member. Pending the outcome of the complaint process the MPA will continue to provide the same level of quality service to its membership and will continue to negotiate on your behalf in the meet and confer process.

“At this time President Cota will focus on the investigation and has decided to take an inactive role within the MPA. Vice President Dan Glover will assume the role of interim president. As always we remind everyone that all of us are presumed innocent and entitled to due process.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6533 or msakal@evtrib.com

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