Tuesday, September 11, 2012
In an unprecedented move, Quartzsite Asst. Town Manager contacted Chief of Police Jeff Gilbert this morning notifying Gilbert that he was fired. A press release was issued, without prior knowledge of Acting Town Manager Terry Frausto, just 10 minutes before this morning's Town Council Meeting.
Council members obviously had no knowledge of the action until after the meeting was adjourned. Sparks began to fly after most of the public left Town Hall, when I asked Council Member Mark Orgeron if he knew about the firing. Orgeron looked shocked and said, "No, I did not."
Renee Nelson, Deputy Town Clerk announced that it had been posted on the town website prior to the meeting, which evidently was a surprise to Acting Town Manager Terry Frausto, who said, "I was not aware of it." Council Members Mark Orgeron, Carol Kelley, Norma Crooks along with other citizens argued with Town Attorney, Martin Brannan, demanding to know why they had not been notified.
Brannan said Frausto was conflicted out of the situation, because of her marriage to QPD Sgt. Xavier Frausto. Brannan explained it was no different than when Johnson fired the police officers last year, which met with an energized exchange between council members and Brannan, bringing more dissent among those present. Town Planning and Zoning Director, Nora Yackley said she did not know about Johnson's actions either.
No private video cameras were rolling during at the time. According to unpublished rules that require there is no filming at Town Hall except during public meetings. However, since it was shortly after the meeting, town video of the incident should have captured the incident.
Orgeron, Kelley, and Frausto continued their discussion with Brannan as they moved behind the closed doors.
Gilbert is on a planned vacation trip, after being placed on paid administrative leave on August 23, 2012. Gilbert is reported to be traveling with his wife out of state.
Council took no actions on any items of the agenda today after being in executive session with Brannan for over 45 minutes. Council Member Patricia Anderson adjourned the meeting after announcing a special meeting is planned for 2pm tomorrow afternoon. Brannan also is the plaintiff's attorney for the Town in a Temporary Restraining Order against the Town Council.
UPDATE: According to Gilbert, Johnson talked to him on his cell phone at exactly 9:00am today Arizona time. There had been a previous call, but cell service was not available.
Quartzsite Deputy Town Clerk posted on the Internet the letter of termination even before the Chief of Police was contacted, let alone had received a copy of the letter.
UPDATE SEPT. 14, 2012
During a press conference called by Interim Town Manager Laura Bruno Friday morning, it was announced that Gilbert was NOT FIRED, as reported earlier. Bruno said the termination was improper and unauthorized. She went on to say Al Johnson who took the action to fire Gilbert is now on paid admin leave. Bruno told the crowd gathered at Town Hall that Gilbert was still on paid administrative leave.
Questions were raised about the status of Town Attorney Martin Brannan. All Bruno would say is "he is currently employed as Town Attorney."