SOMERTON, Ariz. - Somerton's former acting police chief is suing the city and current police chief in a civil lawsuit.
Michelle Magaña is claiming that Police Chief Jeffrey Cavender retaliated against her for exercising her first amendment rights because, according to a complaint filed in September, she wanted the city to use the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board (AZPOST) to qualify Cavender for the police chief position.
According to the complaint obtained by News 11, Magaña expressed concerns with the background investigation used to hire Cavender. That’s why Magaña said she met with an investigator from AZPOST. That investigator told her that Cavender could not wear a police uniform or carry a police badge, amongst other things, prior to being AZPOST certified.
The complaint states that when Cavender found out Magaña was interested in him being AZPOST certified he retaliated against her, violating her first amendment rights.
Magaña said in May Cavender took away her patrol operations, communications and records, and told several department heads not to contact her.
The complaint then states that by July she was suspended as captain and demoted to patrol, where she would answer to another sergeant.
During a meeting in July Cavender claimed that the reason for the disciplinary action against Magaña was for arriving late to a Fourth of July event and that she had been insubordinate to him.
Tuesday night at a city council meeting residents, including a former Somerton police chief, expressed concerns revolving around Magaña’s suspension.
Terry Hollis, retired Somerton police chief, said, “I don’t think the city did a due diligence. I am here of course in support of Michelle.”
Resident Rachel Banks was also at the meeting. “If we have to gather thousands of people and get him out and bring her in it’s going to happen and it’s going to happen like this,” Banks said.
Chief Cavender said he can not comment at this time because it is an open investigation. City officials said they are looking at potentially putting a mid-year evaluation in place for the chief of police. That would potentially make an upcoming city council agenda.