Deal could end battle on Mesa e-mail scandal

Jason Massad
East Valley Tribune
February 13, 2008 – 6:21AM
A nasty legal battle between Mesa’s city management and its two police unions over an e-mail scandal that erupted in 2006 appears finished.
Mesa spokesman Steve Wright announced late Tuesday a settlement is pending that would allow some 200 Mesa police officers snagged in the city e-mail scandal to request the disciplinary action be removed from their personnel files earlier than expected.
Mesa’s investigation into the misuse of e-mails flagged 521 city employees.
Offenders were disciplined for e-mailing suggestive jokes, racially insensitive material and hard-core pornographic images.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Douglas L. Rayes last spring said City Manager Chris Brady overstepped his bounds by forcing city departments to comply with a citywide disciplinary model he crafted.
The case took an unexpected turn in November when the city agreed to reopen individual disciplinary cases among peace officers represented by the Mesa Police Association and the Fraternal Order of Police to comply with the judge’s order.
The move could have imposed further discipline on officers, potentially terminating some of them or having them listed with the state for inappropriate conduct, risking their credibility in prosecuting cases.
The maneuvering now seems to be over. The city is scheduled to adopt new personnel rules tied to the settlement with the city’s police unions that would broaden Brady’s powers to impose discipline across city departments.
“The bottom line in the settlement is that employees that were disciplined now have the ability to have the documentation removed from their personnel file,” Wright said.
Sgt. Fabian Cota, president of the Mesa Police Association, said he learned of the settlement from the news release.
Both unions are agreeing to the settlement’s terms.
However, he said new personnel rules being proposed by the City Council would allow Brady to discipline across the city, in what could be a violation of the city charter.
“We’re heading down the same path as the e-mail investigation into a citywide, all departments investigation.”
Some offenders in the e-mail investigation were suspended from two to five days, when similar offenses in the past had led to written reprimands, Cota said.
The city did not release the settlement agreement as part of its announcement, but it affects all city employees.
A personnel rule change “will change the amount of time documentation for certain types (of) disciplinary action must remain in an employee’s personnel file to one year.”