According to fired Police Chief Jerry Geier’s side, this was a coup the likes of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” with Geier the victim of power-hungry plotters.
“He did nothing to deserve the death sentence to his career,” said Geier’s attorney Steven Serbalik, near the end of Geier’s appeal hearing last week.
The city would point to another play by Shakespeare, with Goodyear painting the fired chief as a scheming, self-serving manipulator, the likes of Claudius, an illegitimate king who takes a fall in “Hamlet.”
Justin Pierce, an attorney representing the city, said Deputy Chief Justin Hughes — the subject of another investigation — and several others disregarded Geier’s orders. “They felt like they had an ethical duty and responsibility to file the right reports,” Pierce said. “They did the right thing.”
Geier, Pierce added, “failed in his duty as chief” by lying and not following procedures.
Pierce said Geier fired others for being untruthful and should accept the same punishment. After three days of testimony, hearing examiner Harold Merkow has until March 17 to make his recommendation.
The city has up to 30 days after receiving the recommendation to make its final decision.
Goodyear placed Geier on administrative leave in October, after allegations involving his conduct. The city hired independent investigators Susan Segal and Donald Conrad to look into charges.
According to testimony, charges of impropriety were brought by the Goodyear Police Association, which also voted unanimously to ask the city to replace Geier with Hughes.
Geier, the police chief here since 2012, was fired after the investigation found him to be untruthful on several key points.
The West Valley View requested a copy of the investigation. Though the city terminated Geier Dec. 28, the city said it will not release the report until the appeal process is complete.
The 1,400-page investigation was the basis of the appeal hearing.
Whatever Merkow’s recommendation, the hearing brought to light a few bizarre and shocking incidents, both from the spring of 2019.
In the first, former Officer Alison Braughton, who had already been the subject of numerous internal investigations, was involved in an off-duty hit and run in Glendale. Geier stated he handled the matter properly and was forthright during the investigation.
The investigation, however, found Geier told Hughes and others not to report the incident to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO) and Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training (AZPOST). Geier allegedly told Hughes he did not want Braughton to sue him, as another woman had.
The other matter involved the search for Hughes’ wife, a then-FBI agent who, according to testimony, the FBI was investigating for having an improper relationship with an informant.
At Justin Hughes’ request, Goodyear’s undercover Neighborhood Enforcement Team searched for Hughes’ wife in Phoenix.
While Geier stated he ordered the NET to turn over the matter to the FBI and/or Phoenix Police, several testified Geier approved of the Goodyear team leading the search — ultimately responsible for finding the unharmed woman.
Though he repeatedly accused him of being behind the conspiracy, Serbalik did not call Hughes to testify.
In his testimony, Conrad said during his investigation he “approached (Hughes’) statements with caution … I knew he was wrong about some things he said.
“He was also the subject of an investigation I was doing.”
While Conrad’s investigation into Hughes is complete, the city will not release the report until Hughes’ has finished using his personal-leave time.
Merkow reviewed the Hughes investigation but ruled it could not be used in the Geier appeal hearing.
Those called to provide testimony included Dan Cotterman, the Goodyear deputy city manager who led the decision to fire Geier, and Santiago Rodriquez, who became interim chief when Geier was fired.
When he testified, Geier said the investigation “was very one-sided and left things out.
“I’ve been in law enforcement a long time,” he said. “My integrity’s never been questioned.”
A few witnesses stated they had positive, friendly relationships with Geier until the Braughton and FBI-agent cases.
Sgt. Jason Mattie had the strongest words. Pierce asked Mattie what his reaction was to Geier’s statement the undercover team acted against his orders.
“I felt betrayed,” Mattie said. “I considered Geier not only as my chief but as my friend.
“I felt like it was throwing me completely under the bus.”