San Luis, Ariz. - The City of San Luis is being sued by the former Acting Police Chief, Javier Arellano.
According to a lawsuit filed last November, Arellano was fired "to conceal, protect and ratify the patently illegal conduct of an elected politician. The City and its officials used biased and corrupt termination procedures to deprive Plaintiff of his Constitutional right to earn a living as a law enforcement officer."
In a statement to News 11 the City said, "The allegations are frivolous and the City of San Luis is confident the Court will dismiss them in due course. Javier Arellano had a fair Administrative Hearing to review the City’s decision to dismiss Javier Arellano from City employment. The recommendation of the Hearing Decision was followed by the City Manager at the time 2 years ago. Since this matter is in on-going litigation, the City cannot comment further."
According to the lawsuit, the issue goes back to 2014.
Arellano claims he is being unjustly blamed for "covering up" a traffic ticket issued at the time to council member Joe Harper's wife.
According to the lawsuit Harper's wife, Luz Harper, "was issued a traffic citation for blocking traffic in the downtown area on or about January 21, 2014."
"Within minutes of the issuance of the citation Councilman Harper contacted an on duty police lieutenant, Ernesto Lugo, to complain about the issuance of the citation and issue orders regarding its disposition," according to the lawsuit.
"Mr. Harper directly contacted the police department of San Luis, AZ to have a traffic ticket "fixed" for his wife," the lawsuit states.
Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges that Lugo, "had a history of having been disciplined by the City of San Luis for improper conduct, including, but not limited to, fixing traffic tickets and was nevertheless retained in his post for the convenience of the City's Administration and politicians as a police officer."
The lawsuit then states that Lugo contacted Arellano, who was at the time a commander, and told him that a patrol officer had cited a politician's wife and that, "current Chief Ramos would want to be informed as soon as possible."
However, the lawsuit claims, "Lugo did not share the source of his information with Commander Arellano nor indicate Lugo's desire to make the ticket disappear. Commander Arellano went to the briefing room where the citing officer was present and retrieved the citation for the express and sole purpose of informing Chief Ramos of the contact with a politician's wife and thereby complying with the Chief's orders."
Arellano claims he placed the citation on his office desk, "to discuss with the Chief later."
Arellano alleges that around that time, things got busy when Chief Ramos resigned and the responsibility of the department fell on his shoulders, as the newly named Acting Police Chief. Arellano claims he forgot about the ticket, and "it remained unprocessed."
According to the lawsuit, "On or about August 4, 2014 an electoral faction which included members of the existing City Council and candidates for Council wanted to remove Acting Chief Arellano from his position and replace him with another administrator who would be more easily manipulated."
The lawsuit claims the "electoral faction" also wanted to remove Councilman Harper from his position.
"David Lara, in coordination with Miguel Alvarez, Lt. Lugo, the citing officer and Does 1-20, delivered to the police department a request for a copy of the citation specifying the citee by name," the lawsuit states.
Having forgot about the ticket, Arellano claims he found it "in a pile of papers in his office." However, the ticket was by now more than six months old, "and therefore legally void under the existing law."
The lawsuit states that Arellano then "dismissed" the ticket.
According to the allegation, an administrative investigation into Arellano's behavior was then launched, "under the direction and control of the City Manager, City Attorney and City Council, including Councilman Harper," the lawsuit continues, "The scope of the investigation was purposely limited to the Plaintiff and another police officer. The investigation was conducted without any formal inquiry into the conduct of Councilman Harper due to instructions from the administrators and politicians of the City of San Luis."
By January 2015 a recommendation for Arellano's termination was made, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states that the City's "pre-termination and post-termination procedures" violated Arellano's rights to due process in order to protect politicians.
Moreover, Arellano claims that he hasn't been able to "gain law enforcement employment" and his reputation has been tarnished, while the other officers were rewarded for allegedly conspiring with city officials.
The lawsuit is seeking for Arellano to receive lost wages, including retirement benefits; compensation for mental and emotional harm; be reinstated to his previous position; receive compensatory damages for the violation of his right to due process; receive compensation for attorney's fees; and for "punitive damages against the individual defendants, in an amount appropriate to punish the defendants and deter others from engaging in similar misconduct."
The lawsuit lists 17 defendants including:
- The City of San Luis
- Gerardo Sanchez, Mayor
- Ralph Velez, City Manager
- Robert Eads, City Manager
- Joe Harper, Council Member
- Matias Rosales, Council Member
- Africa Luna-Carrasco, Council Member
- Marco Pinzon, Council Member
- Gloria Torres, Council Member
- Maria C. Ramos, Council Member
- Tadeo De La Hoya, City Director of Operations
- David Lara, individual
- Miguel Alvarez, Police Officer SLPD
- Ernesto Lugo, Police Officer SLPD
- Victor Figueroa, Police Officer SLPD
- Ellen Van Riper, City Hearing Officer
- Glenn Gimbut, City Attorney
News 11 has also reached out to Arellano's attorney, John H. Serrano, who declined to comment on the matter, for the time being.