The Quartzsite, Ariz., police officers who were being dismissed by a police chief described by the mayor as a “Nazi” have been ordered by a judge to be reinstated until after a show cause hearing scheduled Aug. 15 and after hearings before a “neutral decisionmaker.”
The orders came in two temporary restraining orders issued this week by LaPaz County Superior Court Judge Randolph A. Bartlett, who acted on emergency pleadings by an attorney representing the officers.
The weeks-long confrontation erupted in Quartzsite when city officials ordered police to remove a woman from a town meeting, even though the mayor was pleading her cause.
Most recently, officials with the office of the state attorney general took the unusual step of releasing a statement, confirming there is “reasonable cause” to believe officials in Quartzsite were breaking the law, even though the investigation was not fully finished.
State Attorney General Tom Horne said about his investigation of Quartzsite:
Normally, we do not release the results of an investigation until it has been completed. However, because this is a matter of unusual public interest, we are prepared to say that, based on review of a video of a July 10 meeting, there is reasonable cause to believe that there has been a violation of the Open Meeting Law, inasmuch as the public was excluded.
Among the issues that arose was that a number of police officers – apparently those who expressed concern over their chief’s behavior – were told they were being dismissed, or were in fact dismissed.
But today, attorney Charles Onofry of the firm Schneider & Onofry, P.C. in Phoenix, confirmed that Bartlett this week ordered that Quartzsite, and defendants Town Manager Alex Taft, police chief Jeffrey Gilbert and Al Johnson, the assistant town manager, could not continue with their plans for dismissal.
The judge’s order suggested that the officers were being punished for their statements.
He found that “plaintiffs’ statements related to matters of public concern and plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights are protected; and … plaintiffs have a right to a pre-termination hearing before a neutral decisionmaker; and … defendants have terminated, or threatened to terminate, plaintiffs based on proceedings and hearings before a potentially biased decisionmaker.”
He said to avoid “irreparable and significant … harm,” the town and its officials “shall not terminate plaintiffs until plaintiffs have a meaningful pre-termination hearing with a neutral decisionmarker.”
Further, “any” pretermination hearing will not be handled by Taft, Gilbert or Johnson. And finally, the town was ordered to reinstate any plaintiffs already terminated.
After the notice was served on the town, officials ordered police officers into city hall for polygraph tests that were presumed to be part of the termination process anyway, raising the prospect that the town may be in violation of the judge’s order.
So Onofry returned to court for an emergency temporary restraining order that called for a halt to any polygraph tests.
Onofry told WND the show cause hearing on Aug. 15 is for the judge to hear any evidence about why his order to protect the officers in Quartzsite should not continue.
“What we’ve seen, and it’s our belief based on their own documents, the precipitating cause for investigating all of these plaintiffs is because they complained about the conduct regarding the chief of police Gilbert that they thought was improper,” Onofry said.
“The case in general is unusual,” he said.
Mayor Ed Foster told WND today he is beginning his own legal action against the city for the arbitrary way he was removed from authority and his pay was discontinued.
“I have an attorney and the town attorney has received notification,” he said.
Just last weekend, Horne’s office release confirmation that the town of Quartzsite apparently broke state open-meetings requirements in taking some of its actions. He said:
“The meeting was held under the misconception that an
emergency meeting can be conducted without the public present.
Independently of the question of whether the town council had a
legitimate reason to hold an emergency meeting, even proper emergency
meetings must allow the public to be present. The exception is if there
is a legitimate basis for an executive session, and the city council
did not attempt to hold a proper executive session during the emergency
The town got the attention of the world when officers forcibly remove Jennifer Jones from speaking at a town-hall meeting.
It began June 28 at the Quartzsite town hall. As shown on YouTube, Jones, publisher of the Desert Freedom Press, was physically ousted from a council meeting over the vocal objections of Mayor Ed Foster, who pleaded with his own police not to remove her.
Later, Town Councilman Joe Winslow, who admitted he’s been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, obtained from elected Justice of the Peace Karen Slaughter a harassment injunction against gem dealer and online entrepreneur Michael Roth.
As a result, Roth was forced to relinquish all of his weapons.
Winslow had warned, “I have been diagnosed with PTSD … that’s what I’m concerned with, that he’s gonna get so far into my personal space that I’m gonna react without thinking.”
Winslow claimed Roth verbally chastised him.
Town officials did not respond to a request from WND for comment on the judge’s orders.
Winslow explained why he thought Roth’s firearms needed to be confiscated.
Councilman Joe Winslow of Quartzsite, Ariz., sparked the confiscation of firearms from town resident Michael Roth.
“I know that I’m 71 years old. I don’t want to be a statistic, I don’t want to go to jail and I don’t want to go in the hospital,” Winslow said. “But based on my history of 24 years in the service, I am more concerned about my reaction to his aggression than anything else, especially now that I believe that he is carrying a handgun. His actions have demonstrated in the past to me that he is not in full control of his emotions.”
Winslow also said he has been flooded with several hundred e-mails from Americans not happy about his demand to silence Jones, whom he called “disruptive.”
Remaining town officials also said they declared an “emergency” because of hundreds of e-mails arriving from around the nation.
Roth, 46, was outraged at the mandate, telling WND his constitutional rights are being “completely” violated.
“Town hall is where anyone in America can air their grievances to the public and to the politicians. Now I am ordered to stay away, effectively stopping me from warning others about the police state we live in,” he said. “And in these times of rising crime, I can’t even defend myself or my family because a crooked councilman and a misguided judge are worried about what the councilman might do to me because of his self-confessed mental instabilities. It’s complete insanity!”
Foster, who’s been at war with his own council and Gilbert,
whom he has called corrupt and “a Nazi,” believes potentially millions
of dollars of taxpayer money is being illegally funneled through secret
checks to unnamed council members.
A Facebook support page for Mayor Foster has been inundated with viewers and messages of solidarity.