Dee Taylor, the second in command on the Scottsdale police force, said she will retire at the end of January after more than 30 years of service.
Taylor, 56, the executive assistant chief, ascended through the ranks and has directed the department’s homeland security efforts for the past two years. She said she has been considering retirement for years.
“I spent 30 years serving the citizens of Scottsdale and the Scottsdale Police Department,” she said Friday. “Now I’d like to take some time for me.”
She also was a key figure in one of three formal investigations related to another top police executive, administrative services director Helen Gandara-Zavala. She said her decision to step down had absolutely nothing to do with the investigations.
Police Chief Alan G. Rodbell said Taylor was cleared through an Internal Affairs investigation of any wrongdoing and is retiring with “high honors.”
The investigation was closed earlier this month, Rodbell said. The Tribune was unable to obtain a copy of the findings Friday evening.
Taylor said she plans to get some rest after three decades of police work.
She wants to travel, read a stack of books, get a Doberman pinscher, teach emergency response courses at a community college and spend more time with her mother. She is unmarried and has no children.
“It’s just a great time for me. Thirty years is a nice round number,” she said.
Taylor graduated first in her police academy class in 1973 and was the first woman on the Scottsdale force to hold the ranks of sergeant, lieutenant, captain, deputy chief and executive assistant chief.
She also led the Fire Transition Team, which developed plans to create a municipal fire department earlier this year. The plans were shelved when Scottsdale residents voted in May to retain private fire-services firm Rural/Metro Corp.
City Manager Jan Dolan said the city will resurrect the fire department plans, because Rural/Metro executives announced last week the company will not seek a new contract after 2005.
The recently completed Internal Affairs investigation involving Taylor focused on the circumstances in which she notified Gandara-Zavala about a drug investigation linked to her husband, Mario Zavala.
“That’s been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction that Helen was, in fact, informed, but she was informed at the appropriate time,” Rodbell said.
“If someone had done something wrong, they wouldn’t be hanging around until January. This woman has earned her retirement.”
The drug investigation, which was conducted between 1998 and 2002, was dropped and no one was charged. Taylor declined to discuss the matter Friday.
Two other investigations involving Gandara-Zavala are ongoing.
Rodbell ordered the investigations after an Oct. 26 Tribune story detailing her admitted past illegal drug use, the drug investigation and a DUI investigation related to Zavala.
Gandara-Zavala directs six divisions, including forensic services, which encompasses the police crime laboratory.
The Tribune reported that before she was hired in 1998, she signed a handwritten admission to using cocaine about 20 times and marijuana about 10 times several years earlier in El Paso, Texas.
Generally, one use of cocaine after the age of 21 is an automatic disqualifier for employment on the police force. Former Chief Doug Bartosh said he waived policy to hire her.
In a separate Internal Affairs investigation, police are trying to determine how the Tribune obtained Gandara-Zavala’s signed admission. Police spokesman Sgt. Doug Dirren said the probe is expected to be finished in two to four weeks.
In a third investigation, officials with the city attorney’s office are looking into the circumstances of a 1999 police investigation after Zavala’s arrest on suspicion of driving while under the influence.
Zavala’s blood sample, which was tested in the Scottsdale police lab, showed a blood -alcohol content of 0.028 percent, well below the legal limit, which was 0.1 percent at the time. Charges against him were dropped.
A defense lawyer for another driver involved in the matter, said he received an anonymous letter last year suggested the blood samples were tampered with.
Rodbell said he is unaware of the status of the investigation into the lab.
He said he is considering eliminating the executive assistant chief position after Taylor’s retirement.
In a related matter, former Chandler City Manager Donna Dreska said she was unaware of Gandara-Zavala’s past drug use when Gandara-Zavala applied to be Chandler’s assistant city manager in November 2001.
“If I had known about that, that would have been an issue for me,” Dreska said. “I might be a little bit of a prude there, but in government, I think we have to have a little bit of a higher standard.”
Chandler officials interviewed Gandara-Zavala as a finalist for the position, but did not offer her the job, according to documents obtained with a public records request.
Dreska resigned as Chandler city manager in April 25 and is Los Alamos County manager in New Mexico.