FARMINGTON — A Farmington police detective was placed on administrative leave last month because the Chief of Police said he botched an embezzlement investigation.

Detective Sgt. Robert Perez was placed on paid administrative leave Jan. 9, the day after Chief Kyle Westall filed a formal complaint against Perez. He is still on leave while Capt. Vince Mitchell investigates one of Perez's recent investigations, Lt. Taft Tracy said.

Westall said the report Perez completed for his investigation of missing money at the Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau wasn't truthful or satisfactory, according to the complaint.

Perez started investigating the Convention and Visitors Bureau on June 13, 2012 when employees reported at least $200,000 was missing. Police reports show the investigation quickly pointed to the bureau's director, Debbie Dusenbery, 41.

After a week long investigation, Dusenbery allegedly admitted in emails to Perez she stole hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is believed she stole more than $500,000.

The bureau was funded with a lodgers tax collected by the city of Farmington.

Dusenbery's vehicle and her dead body were found in an Arizona desert on Jan. 31, 2012. She died from a self-inflicted gun shot to the head.

Even though Dusenbery allegedly bought gifts for friends, no one was ever charged with a crime related to the case, Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said.

He said the state would have to prove that anyone who received gifts knew Dusenbery had used stolen money to pay for them.


Advertisement

On Jan. 23, 2013, Farmington police Lt. Darin Hardy wrote a final report that closed the Dusenbery embezzlement investigation.

Hardy's report accused Perez of knowing that Dusenbery was struggling emotionally, but did not report that information.

Perez's report stated that no one had been in contact with Dusenbery other than her cousin, according to Hardy.

Hardy wrote that Karen McPheeters contacted Capt. McPheeters and told him she received troubling messages from Dusenbery the day of her death. McPheeters then relayed that information to Perez, but it did not appear in any of his reports, according to Hardy's police report.

Hardy's report also states that Perez directed media calls on the Dusenbery investigation to Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes, which was against department policy.

Perez said he forwarded a reporter to Mayes because Mayes broke news of Dusenbery's death to a "Freedom Days Committee."

Hardy said there was no proof that happened.

Perez, his attorney and attorneys for Farmington police administrators declined comment for this story.

Perez previously filed a lawsuit against the police department. The district judge hearing the case has issued a gag order.

Perez and Cpl. Russ Bradford, another detective, filed the lawsuit in June 2011 against the city of Farmington, the police department and Jim Runnels, the former police chief.

The detectives are seeking promotions and an apology from the city of Farmington. They also are asking that the internal affairs records and disciplinary actions be expunged from their personnel files, according to the lawsuit. A trial is scheduled for September.

The lawsuit says the detectives suffered retaliation, threats, harassment and defamation after three sperate events.

The first incident cited was a disposition Perez gave in a federal lawsuit filed against the city by former Farmington police Sgt. Ron Anderson.

Anderson's 2009 lawsuit alleged alleging he was passed over for numerous promotions because of his age. Perez said in his lawsuit he was isolated and defamed after speaking highly of Anderson.

The second incident cited involved an investigation into the death of a woman who participated in a "drinking lab."

Drinking lab participants drink alcohol and undergo field sobriety tests as part of an officer training program.

On March 23, 2010, Perez and Bradford started investigating Tamara Gallegos' death. Gallegos was found dead and bloody in the bathroom of her home two days after she participated in the program.

While Perez and Bradford were investigating the death, they learned Westall, then the deputy police chief, and Capt. Keith McPheeters were interviewing drinking lab participants and other witnesses to determine if the police department was liable in Gallegos' death, according to Bradford's police report.

Westall and McPheeters denied they were conducting an investigation into liability issues, according to the police department's response to Perez and Bradford's lawsuit.

The final incident the detectives cited was a reprimand Perez received from superiors during his Convention and Visitors Bureau investigation.