Scottsdale police hiring policies questioned - East Valley Tribune: News

Scottsdale police hiring policies questioned

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Posted: Friday, December 19, 2003 4:18 am | Updated: 2:22 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Scottsdale City Councilman and mayoral candidate David Ortega called for a review of police hiring policies Thursday.

Specifically, he wants to know under what circumstances and how often the police department waives its requirements.

"I don’t know if there are two waivers, 10 waivers or 50 waivers out there. I don’t want that to sound too sensational, but I mean we just need to know," he said.

The action follows months of unrest within police ranks triggered by disclosures in the Tribune that a high-ranking police executive was hired in 1998 despite admitting to using cocaine about 20 times several years earlier.

According to police policy, applicants must not have used, sold, transported or produced illegal drugs after age 21. It allows a one-time "experimentation" use before then.

However, the policy also allows the police chief to waive the requirements for "extraordinary" circumstances.

Former Chief Doug Bartosh waived requirements to hire the top civilian on the force, administrative services director Helen Gandara-Zavala, who earns $108,888 annually.

She signed a handwritten statement during a preemployment polygraph test admitting to cocaine and marijuana use. The polygraph report notes Gandara-Zavala said she used cocaine between the ages of 22 and 25.

Ortega said he expects City Manager Jan Dolan to present a report about the matter to the council in January. At that point, he may consider recommending changes.

"I’m probing to see what the limits are currently and what discretion is being used," he said. "I need to know that and I think that it’s important that this flow to the top so that we know where the controls are."

The matter is particularly important because the city is preparing to start a municipal fire department in 2005, Ortega said. The city will move from private firefighting services to a city department.

Police Chief Alan Rodbell, who took his post after Dolan fired Bartosh in January, said he is comfortable with Ortega’s request.

"You always want to review policies and we’re perfectly willing to sit back and review policies," Rodbell said.

Chet Anderson, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, previously said the Gandara-Zavala matter is causing a rift within the force. He also said his organization will endorse mayoral and City Council candidates who supported "change" within the department.

Mail-in voting begins Feb. 5. Election day is March 9.

Anderson could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The other three mayoral candidates, incumbent Mayor Mary Manross, former Councilwoman Cynthia Lukas and former state Sen. Bob Usdane, said they support Ortega’s call for a review.

Lukas said, "That case disturbed a lot of police officers who had doubts in their minds whether the city did have the best policies in place. And so, I think a review of those policies is certainly a good thing to do periodically."

Gandara-Zavala remains on the force. Police Internal Affairs is investigating how the Tribune obtained her admission statement, Rodbell said.

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