Ortega shifts on police probe - East Valley Tribune: News

Ortega shifts on police probe

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Posted: Thursday, March 25, 2004 2:19 am | Updated: 4:40 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Four internal investigations and reviews into the Scottsdale Police Department are still under way — months after they began.

However, the nature of a review initiated by City Councilman David Ortega has changed significantly and city officials said they did not know when any of them will be complete.

The probes have been slowed in part by the mailbombing of diversity director Don Logan on Feb. 27, said city spokesman Pat Dodds.

Ortega and Police Chief Alan G. Rodbell initiated the probes after an Oct. 26 Tribune article revealed that a high-ranking police executive was hired in 1998 despite admitting to using cocaine about 20 times several years earlier.

The four probes:

• Ortega’s review into the circumstances and frequency that the police department waives its drug requirements. Ortega has since redirected the focus to protecting police records.

• Rodbell’s Internal Affairs investigation into how the Tribune obtained a copy of a signed statement by admin- istrative services director Helen Gandara-Zavala that she admitted using illegal drugs before being hired in Scottsdale.

• Rodbell’s Internal Affairs investigation into the notification of Gandara-Zavala that her husband was under investigation for possibly associating with drug dealers sometime between 1998 and 2002.

• Rodbell’s review of a DUI investigation that involved Gandara-Zavala’s husband in 1999.

On Dec. 18, Ortega, a mayoral candidate, ordered City Manager Jan Dolan to review the police department’s use of drug waivers.

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

On Feb. 4, Rodbell and city human relations general manager Neal Shearer released the results the review, which instead detailed the police department’s drug standards. Ortega called it "incomplete" in part because it failed to address the circumstances and frequency of drug waivers. He ordered it redone.

In an interview this week though, Ortega said he is no longer concerned about those issues.

He said a person, whom he declined to identify, confirmed a Jan. 13 Tribune article that stated that in June 2003 there were 10 to 20 police employees who had been provided drug waivers.

The article was based on an court affidavit given by police personnel specialist Michael Sperry in a discrimination lawsuit against the police department.

Ortega this week repeatedly declined comment about why the issues are no longer important to him. "I have no comment on that. It is what it is. There is already a ballpark number and that is good enough for me, OK?" he said.

The new focus of the review is similar to Rodbell’s investigation into the Gandara-Zavala document.

"The only question I have now is how the security measures can be tightened. That is the only remaining question," Ortega said.

Chet Anderson, president of the Scottsdale chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he was not surprised by Ortega’s change of direction.

"I think him and Rodbell had a discussion or came to an agreement or did something that kind of makes it a moot point, unless Ortega wanted to push it — and apparently he no longer wants to push it," Anderson said.

"(Ortega) may be trying to make political peace with the department and make this a non-issue," he said.

On May 18, Scottsdale voters will be asked to approve a 0.10 percentage-point sales tax increase for public safety improvements.

The tax increase would generate an estimated $7.9 million annually. It would be used to offset costs of forming a municipal fire department and a variety of police enhancements.

Former Police Chief Doug Bartosh used a provision in city policy to waive the police department’s drug standards to hire Gandara-Zavala.

The original drug and DUI investigations involving her husband were closed without charges.

Rodbell previously said his own inquiries in the drug and DUI matters showed no misconduct. He said he believed the on-going probes would provide independent verification of his findings.

He did not return a telephone call about matters Wednesday, as has been his practice in recent weeks.

"The chief told me that as far as he knows, we’ve dealt with the issues raised by Councilman Ortega, all except for the issue of how we are keeping records confidential," Dodds said.

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