FARMINGTON — Attorneys for the City of Farmington, City Manager Robert Mayes, and two former police chiefs filed multiple motions Monday challenging claims of discrimination, conspiracy, libel and wage loss made by former Farmington police Detective Sgt. Robert Perez.
The attorneys request in the motions for summary judgment that U.S. District Court Judge Judith Herrera find in favor of the defendants on virtually all claims made by Perez in his lawsuit. Perez' attorneys have until August 29 to respond to the motions.
Perez claims in his lawsuit, filed in district court nearly three years ago and later moved to federal court, that the City of Farmington, Mayes and former Farmington police chiefs Kyle Westall and James Runnels repeatedly violated his civil rights while he was employed by the police department. He says in the lawsuit his firing in February 2013 was an act of retaliation orchestrated by both Mayes and Westall because he had filed a discrimination complaint against the city and provided a deposition in an age discrimination lawsuit brought by a former sergeant.
He further claims in his lawsuit that the city and various police officials scuttled his investigations into the deaths of Debbie Dusenbery and Tamara Gallegos in an attempt to protect themselves and the police department from civil and criminal action.
Dusenbery was accused in January 2012 of embezzling more than $500,000 from the Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau during her employment as the bureau's executive director. The 41 year old was found dead of a self-inflicted gun shot to the head in the Arizona desert shortly after the investigation began.
Tamara Gallegos died in March 2010, days after she participated in a "wet lab," where she drank alcohol so officers could conduct field sobriety tests as part of a training program. Her death was investigated but ultimately ruled a suicide.
Perez investigated the Convention and Visitors Bureau theft and told The Daily Times in June 2012 that he suspected that there were others who knew, and benefited greatly, from the embezzled funds. Investigative documents released in February showed that some of the embezzled funds were used to pay for vacation expenses for Police Sgt. Rick Simmons and his wife; Russell Smith, Dusenbery's former boyfriend; Ronald Fellabaum, another boyfriend; Simmons' father-in-law; Tucker and Karen Bayless, Roberts' in-laws; and former bureau executive director Becky Walling.
According to internal department documents included in the motions filed Monday, a forensic search of Perez' computer after he was fired revealed that Perez had sent a search warrant for Walling's residence in Arizona to Tonya Stinson, current executive director of the FCVB.
"For your eyes only," Perez allegedly wrote to Stinson in the email. "Proof this and make suggestions if you think there is something I need to add or delete. DA already has a draft so there is still time and I need some fresh eyes on it."
According to the motion, Perez violated the department's code of conduct by providing a confidential document to someone outside the department.
Perez was also found to have sent and received work-related documents through a personal email account, violating another department policy.
Perez was fired for eight violations of the department's code of conduct, an internal memo states. The codes specified were related to department reports, unsatisfactory performance, processing of property and evidence, and intervention.
Westall told Mayes in the memo that Perez insisted on reviewing all investigative findings by the financial firm Solga & Jakino before the firm's report was provided to city officials. Solga & Jakino was hired by the city to analyze the FCVB's financial records to determine how much money was missing and where it had gone.
"At no point was Perez given such authority to control the direction of the investigation and the reporting of the investigative findings narrowly to him," Westall wrote.
Westall said in the memo that though Perez claimed he had never been verbally reprimanded, he had been given "verbal counseling" at various points in his career for insubordination and deliberately subverting a supervisory directive. These infractions occurred before Perez's initiation of legal action against the city, Westall said.
In the Gallegos case, documents included with the motions indicate that an internal affairs investigation concluded that Perez and other detectives failed to effectively investigate the death or inform family members of pertinent information related to the death.
Perez was not formally reprimanded, former Police Chief James Runnels said in a deposition, because the department's lawyers advised against doing so. Perez was involved in civil litigation on a separate matter involving the department at the time.