The new commander of the Apache Junction Police Department left his previous job amid charges of dishonesty, making false statements and insubordination, newly released documents show.
Jay Swart, whose reputation of being a dictatorial manager has sparked concern among police employees and some Apache Junction council members, went on medical leave from the state Capitol Police Department the day he was notified a polygraph examination had been scheduled to determine if he was telling the truth in an internal investigation, according to one memo.
Another shows that four separate investigations done last year, while Swart was a captain at the Capitol Police, found evidence to sustain charges of misconduct.
By then, Swart had gone on medical leave and no further action was taken. Wendell Grasee, then chief of the Capitol Police, made it clear in his May 2005 memorandum that if Swart attempted to return to duty, he would have to answer the charges.
“In all four cases, the findings support a ‘sustained’ complaint involving the allegation,” Grasee wrote. “The severity of the allegations and the position held by Captain Swart dictate that a record be kept. In addition, should Captain Swart return to work prior to his normal retirement, it is my intent to direct him to respond in writing to the allegations for placement in the record.”
Swart’s last day on the job at the Capitol Police was in August 2004. He stayed on medical leave until last October, when he took a disability retirement, claiming a nineyear-old back injury had become so bad he could no longer work as a police officer.
In February, Swart was hired by Chief Glenn Walp to be second-in-command in Apache Junction. He makes $86,000 per year under the two-year contract as a civilian administrative commander, not a sworn police officer.
Swart had a reputation of ruling through fear and retaliation while he was a top commander at the Capitol Police, a reputation he has lived up to in Apache Junction, according to current and former employees of the city’s police department.
Last month the Tribune reported on a series of investigations that were critical of Swart’s management style while he was a captain at the Capitol Police, a division of the Arizona Department of Administration (ADOA). Many of those allegations were documented in ADOA reports obtained through a public records request.
After the Tribune’s story was published Aug. 20, Apache Junction City Attorney Joel Stern filed a request for the ADOA records. In processing the city’s request, state officials found additional reports that had not been turned over to the Tribune, according to Alan Ecker, ADOA spokesman.
Last May, an inventory of Swart’s Capitol office turned up unusual items, including a crack pipe, marijuana and an empty envelope that was supposed to contain cash, the newly released departmental reports show. Most of the items had been impounded as evidence in various cases and the officer who made the inventory said he would attempt to find out why they were in Swart’s possession. The report does not indicate an explanation was ever given.
Swart did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Four of the new reports of potential misconduct by Swart involve incidents that occurred in 2002 and 2003. Among the charges against Swart in those cases:
• Dishonesty. Swart indicated at a March 23, 2003 meeting that a Capitol Police employee had lied and had “integrity issues” while she was attending the police training academy. That was not true, Grasee concluded in his April 2005 review of that case.
“In fact, I would have a better chance of making a case for dishonesty/lack of integrity against Captain Swart,” Grasee stated.
• Providing false information. Swart falsely claimed that a former Capitol Police officer was the subject of four internal investigations and was facing criminal charges when he resigned from the agency in 2002. Swart made the false statements to Glendale police, who were conducting a background investigation after the officer applied for a job there.
“This entire incident is an embarrassment to the Capitol Police, especially when it involved the conduct of the second-in-command at the time,” Grasee concluded.
• Insubordination. Swart directed a subordinate to disregard an order from former Police Chief Andrew Staubitz about the time of February 2003.
“This was insubordination on his part and represents serious misconduct,” Grasee said of Swart.
• Improper procedures. Swart either directed or allowed a subordinate, Sgt. Brian Neus, to write a letter of recommendation for an employee who had been fired. Grasee notes in his review that Swart and Neus gave different versions of whether Swart directed the letter be written. Statements from other witnesses tended to support Neus’ version, Grasee concluded.
Those four cases involved incidents that took place before Grasee became chief of Capitol Police in March 2004. Because the incidents should have been dealt with earlier, Grasee recommended no further action be taken against Swart and the cases were closed.
Shortly after Grasee became chief, Swart filed a complaint claiming Staubitz had made inappropriate comments to a state employee sometime in 2002. Staubitz had served as interim chief and returned to the rank of captain when Grasee was hired.
Staubitz denied making the remark and volunteered to take a polygraph. He was later cleared of any wrongdoing.
Swart went on medical leave the day he was notified that polygraph examination had been scheduled to determine whether he was telling the truth in his complaint against Staubitz, records show.
Grasee recently retired from the Capitol Police and could not be reached for comment. Staubitz, currently the ranking officer in the Capitol Police, did not return phone calls.
When Swart was hired in Apache Junction, Walp personally vouched for him. Walp had been chief of the Capitol Police in late 2001 and said he investigated allegations leveled in a 1998 administrative investigation of Swart’s management practices.
Walp told the Tribune last month he was not aware of investigations conducted after he left the agency in January 2002.