Possible violation of Open Meetings Law in search for police chief
The Pima County Attorney’s Office is investigating whether there were violations of the state’s Open Meetings Law after the Tucson City Council’s seven-hour closed-meeting discussion about picking a police chief Tuesday.
The council was presumed to pick a chief during that meeting, but the process fell apart, ending in a decision to abandon the monthslong nationwide search and to hire the new chief from within Tucson Police Department.
The story was leaked to the media Wednesday, and in an interview that day Councilwoman Shirley Scott said the council decided to restart the selection process because of a lack of “community consensus” on who the best candidate was.
Investigator Steve Merrick said the investigation began Thursday but would not say whether it was spurred by a complaint. Merrick asked a Citizen reporter about Scott’s comments and also asked the identity of two sources quoted in the Citizen’s story who had spoken under condition of anonymity. The Citizen did not reveal their identity and cannot be compelled to under the state’s reporter shield law.
The council’s talks about picking a chief took place in a closed executive session. City Attorney Mike Rankin said state law requires such meetings be opened with an advisory about state law prohibiting officials from revealing matters discussed in the closed meetings.
Potential penalties for violating the law include a $500 fine per violation, paying any attorneys fees and removal from office.
Rankin said he would work with the County Attorney’s Office and would continue to provide legal counsel to the council.
City Manager Mike Hein did not immediately return calls for comment, and neither did most of the City Council. Council members Rodney Glassman and Nina Trasoff declined to comment.
Former North Las Vegas Police Chief Mark Paresi, one of the finalists for the job, said, “I don’t know how the process ended up the way it did.”
He said he did not file a complaint with the county attorney.
The other finalists were Tucson Police Department Assistant Chief John Leavitt, TPD Capt. Brett Klein and Phoenix Police Department Assistant Chief Blake McClelland. They did not respond to requests for comment.