The disability approval of Kyle Cluff, a former Goodyear police officer who was untruthful with a superior, is raising some eyebrows—particularly as he told the retirement board he “misspoke” during his hearing.
“He’s a lying piece of (expletive)—and now he gets a tax-free pension,” said one current officer, who asked not to have his name used.
“Cluff lies, quits before getting fired. Lies to the retirement board repeatedly, and they even talk about the dishonesty and lack of confidence in the application—then vote to give it to him,” said a former officer, who also asked not to be named.
When told about the comments, Cluff said he wasn’t surprised. “Some people hate me—because I called out something that was wrong,” Cluff said.
Indeed, his remarks at a meeting last fall about undercover police using improper license plates led to an interrogation by then-Deputy Chief Justin Hughes.
Cluff discussed the license plate issue with Susan Petty, a police department administrative employee. But, when Hughes asked Cluff if he discussed it with Petty, Cluff denied it.
Why did he fail to tell the truth to Hughes, his superior?
“I didn’t feel safe,” Cluff told the West Valley View. “Realistically, knowing the history that this dude has some mental issues ... the way it was going down, and him having a gun on a hip.”
Though an independent investigation found Hughes overzealous in his investigation, it did not excuse Cluff’s failing to tell the truth—which likely would have led to him being fired, the fate of other officers found to be untruthful.
But Cluff resigned, shortly before the investigation was released.
He said he quit in January not to avoid being fired but because he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. “It was doctors telling me, ‘Hey, you have an issue,’” Cluff said.
After being placed on administrative leave last October, he said he started realizing he had a problem.
“When you’re on admin leave, you’re cut off—no one talks to you, you’re shunned. You’re by yourself on a lonely island with time for a lot of self reflection. I started thinking, ‘Maybe I’m not right.’ And I had promptings from my family, ‘Why don’t you go talk to somebody?’” Cluff said.
The Goodyear Police Public Safety Personnel Retirement Board approved Cluff’s disability request at the end of July, after several meetings during which Cluff said he was “put through the ringer.”
Even though an independent medical examiner provided documentation stating Cluff has PTSD, the board asked Cluff about details.
This led to emotional statements, with Bill Stipp challenging the way the board was handling Cluff’s request—and board chair Laura Kaino defending her questioning of Cluff.
Both Stipp and Kaino are members of the Goodyear City Council.
According to minutes of the July 23 retirement board meeting, “Chairman Kaino commented on statements made by Councilmember Stipp. She stated that the board has a fiduciary responsibility to do their due diligence.
“She added that a number of PTSD cases have come before the board that have been tied to disciplinary issues. She said the board has been cautious and these cases are precedent-setting decisions and the board has wanted to ensure they have all the documentation needed to make decisions.
“She said there have been red flags, and in this case Kyle Cluff has not been forthcoming and there are concerns about truthfulness. She added that the board is not convinced about the reason for his separation or the permanence of his disability.”
Yet Kaino ultimately voted with the majority in approving Cluff’s disability payments. Board members Michael Stewart and Jay Mathias also voted to approve Cluff’s claim, with Eric Webster voting against Cluff.
The West Valley View asked Kaino about her vote, and if Stipp’s testimony swayed her.
“I voted to award Cluff the disability retirement based on the medical evidence provided to the board by the physician who conducted the independent medical examination,” Kaino said in an email.
“Mr. Stipp’s comments did not impact my decision. Our boards and commissions always provide the opportunity for citizen comment. In this instance, Mr. Stipp made it clear that his comments were made as a private citizen and not as an elected official.”
In an email, Stipp confirmed he was not speaking in an official capacity.
“As a retired and disabled public safety beneficiary, I spoke on behalf of the retirement process and not on behalf of Mr. Cluff,” Stipp said.
He noted that, when he spoke to the retirement board, “While I use examples from Mr. Cluff’s case, I addressed the need to treat our public safety professionals who have a claim of PTSD, equally and compassionately.
“I did feel it appropriate to address the board, about what I believed to be, detrimental comments made at the previous meeting that could have long term consequences for future applicants who need help,” Stipp said.
Stipp was not specific but may have been referring to a board member telling Cluff, “Maybe you weren’t cut out to be a cop.”
At the July 23 retirement board meeting, Cluff was challenged about earlier testimony he gave, when in answer to a question he said he had been at an autopsy. “I misspoke,” Cluff told the board.
Cluff told the West Valley View his statement was made out of confusion. “I got spun up and stuttered. I’m not dishonest, I’ve been very upfront with all the doctors,” he said.
He said his PTSD diagnosis is something many—if not most—police officers could share.
“I don’t think I’m special in any way. I think a lot of officers deal with what I’m dealing with,” Cluff said. “But when you’re in that life, it’s the blind leading the blind. There’s people laughing about serious things, like people getting shot in the face—like it’s just normal. Officers don’t sleep, you have nightmares, flashbacks—you don’t talk about it.
“And if you do people think you’re crazy.”