Last week, the city of Goodyear released the first investigation reports regarding police employees suspended in October.
According to the reports, lies about a phone call by an officer led to two suspensions.
An interrogation about the call “spiraled out of control” — and may have fueled a third suspension.
The city of Goodyear announced Oct. 7 it placed four police department employees on leave.
After his investigation was completed, Police Chief Jerry Geier was fired last month. He is appealing the termination.
Tammy Vo, a Goodyear spokeswoman, said the city will not release the Geier investigation report until his appeal is completed. She said an appeal hearing has not been scheduled.
The investigation regarding Deputy Chief Justin Hughes was completed in mid-January. “Hughes is no longer on administrative leave but is currently on extended personal leave,” Vo said.
She said the investigation of Hughes “cannot be released until any disciplinary action has been considered which would take place when Hughes’ personal leave has concluded.”
The city of Goodyear provided the West Valley View with investigation reports on now former Officer Kyle Cluff and Susan Petty, a former police department administrative manager.
After the investigation concluded in mid-January, Cluff resigned. Petty returned to work but was demoted.
Both were found to be untruthful about a phone call Cluff made to Petty, according to a report authored by Susan Segal, of the law firm Gust Rosenfeld. Segal, who formerly worked for the Arizona Attorney General’s office, was assisted by Donald Conrad, former Assistant Attorney General.
“On Oct. 2, 2019, Kyle Cluff was untruthful in responding to questions about whether he contacted a civilian co-worker, Susan Petty, to tell her about a conversation at the noon patrol briefing on that day of the Neighborhood Enforcement Team (NET) concerning the use of an unauthorized license plate on a vehicle used by the NET,” the report stated.
On the first page of the Cluff investigation, Segal wrote, “In addition to Officer Cluff, the following individuals were interviewed in this investigation: Sgt. Jason Bayer, Chief Jerry Geier, Deputy Chief Justin Hughes, Lt. Joe Pacello, civilian department employee Susan Petty (and) Deputy Chief Santiago Rodriguez.”
Rodriguez has been acting chief of the Goodyear Police Department since Oct. 7.
Throughout the report, the names of Geier, Petty, Rodriguez and Pacello are not redacted. Hughes’ name appears only in the introduction of the heavily-redacted report.
Vo said the investigation of Geier was not related to the Cluff-Petty phone call and subsequent investigation.
When asked if the Hughes investigation was related to the Cluff-Petty phone call/investigations, Vo stated, “I am not sure, you would have to wait until the Hughes investigation documents are made available. All I can tell you is names are redacted in the Petty and Cluff files because they have to do with other ongoing investigations.”
Bad plate, disputed call
According to the report, at an Oct. 2 Neighborhood Enforcement Team meeting, “It was reported, the previous evening, the NET was using a van with a fictitious California license plate. Not knowing this was a NET vehicle. Officer Cody Poole made a traffic stop of the van.
“During the discussion that ensued at the briefing, Officer Cluff pointed out ‘It was a policy violation for the NET team to be using an unauthorized license plate.” Lt. (Scott) Benson told Cluff and the others at the briefing he was going to address the issue with Department Command staff.”
At this point, a name is redacted repeatedly in the copy provided to the West Valley View.
“(Redacted name) was concerned about how Chief Geier learned about the NET van plates because he felt someone undermined the chain of command, particularly since Benson had told Cluff and others he would address the issue.
“(Redacted name) suspected Cluff told Susan Petty, who is a friend of Cluff’s, about the discussion at the briefing … (Redacted name) called Cluff and had a 37-second telephone call with him. During this phone call, he asked Cluff if he told Petty about the expired van plates, Cluff denied he told Petty about the NET van incident with the expired plates. (Redacted name) did not believe Cluff, due to his tone and words.”
The employee whose name was redacted then talked to Petty. According to the report, “(Redacted name) then specifically asked Petty if Cluff had contacted her within the last few hours about NET using false plates. She looked away, became flushed, put both of her hands behind her head and leaned back in her chair and, after a few seconds, she shook her head and said, ‘Nope, no.’”
According to the report, the employee whose name was redacted then spoke to Geier “and told him he ‘suspected’ both Petty and Cluff were lying.”
Geier directed the employee to “conduct further inquiry,” along with Rodriguez.
Rodriguez and the staff member whose name was redacted interviewed Cluff.
The employee whose name was redacted was concerned Cluff was stepping over his boundaries.
“(Redacted name) told Cluff his original reason for contacting him about talking to Petty about the plates is he wanted to advise him, in the future, he should let the lieutenant do his job. In this case, Lt. Benson already told a group, including Cluff, he would take care of the issue of the fictitious plates,” the report states.
‘On a mission’
Cluff and Petty were both dishonest about the phone call between them, the report concluded.
The tone and manner the employee whose name was redacted exhibited also was called into question.
“Rodriguez stated (redacted name) appeared frustrated, and was agitated during the interview of Cluff. Rodriguez described (redacted name) as ‘on a mission.’ Rodriguez told Conrad he thought (redacted name) was inappropriate because, even when (redacted name) had the answers he needed, he kept on asking questions to get another lie. Rodriguez believes (redacted name) kept on too long in his questioning of Cluff and (redacted name) kept trying to drag Cluff and Petty into more lies,” investigator Segal wrote.
Cluff and Petty both admitted they lied about the phone call, according to the report.
Cluff also complained about the employee whose name was redacted.
When asked by investigator Conrad why he lied about the phone call to Petty, Cluff replied:
“One, I was physically scared and I didn’t know what (redacted name’s) mental or physical intentions were. I reported a crime against one of his friends and he was instantly coming after me and it appeared he was not dealing with the crime. His voice was altered and I had personal knowledge of some potential medical issues he was having or mental issues and some improper things he had done in the past investigations.
“I didn’t know at what point it might escalate and I was scared.”
Cluff told the investigator he lied about the phone call to avoid more questions from the employee whose name was redacted. “If I say, ‘Yes,’ he is probably going to ask me a whole bunch of more questions and I’m still in here and I don’t how much more mad he is going to get I ratted out his friend.”
While concluding Cluff was untruthful, the Segal report lists “mitigating factors”:
“We recognize that different interviewers have different styles, but we must point out the aggressiveness of interrogation of Cluff seems disproportionate in comparison to the relatively minor issue of who told Chief Geier about the van’s unauthorized plates.
“To that extent, while we do not believe Cluff was intimidated, it was an inappropriately intense interrogation, given the comparative insignificance of the issue at hand. As both Petty and Rodriguez commented, (redacted name) was ‘on a mission’: and that mission appears to be to catch Cluff in a lie, which is a violation of policy.”
The Segal report, dated Dec. 17, concludes:
“The underlying issue (and stated reason for the inquiry) was more of a management issue - chain of command.
“The interrogation spiraled out of control due, at least in some part, to the inability of (redacted name) to realize a measured approach might be more appropriate and productive.”