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Quartzsite, Arizona

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Quartzsite Town Council terminates contract with Police Chief Jeff Gilbert

By Shanana Rain Golden-Bear
Publisher Desert Messenger
Quartzsite, AZ - Tuesday, October 22, 2014, Town Council voted to terminate the contract of Quartzsite Chief of Police Jeff Gilbert. Council members had been attempting to terminate Gilbert for many years, and recently the efforts escalated. Council returned from a long executive session and terminated Gilbert's contract "Without Cause" and will "provide severance as provided by the contract." No explanation was given to the public, however, Council Member Mary Scott said, "The Town is going in one direction, and the Chief is going in another." After the vote, Gilbert addressed the council and the public saying he was grateful for the support of the community for the past eight years. The Council denied the public to comment on their decision. 
Former Quartzsite Chief of Police Jeff Gilbert
Photo by Shanana Rain Golden-Bear
Desert Messenger

Gilbert became famous in June 2011 when 80% of QPD officers filed a vote of "No Confidence" in his leadership. The majority of those officers were eventually terminated by former Town Manager Alex Taft, and are still in litigation with the Town. In 2010, Mayor Ed Foster initiated several complaints against Gilbert. Town of Quartzsite administration ordered an investigation by Jackson Lewis, LLC, which has since been made public online:

When the video of local activist Jennifer "Jade" Jones being forcefully removed from a council meeting went viral in July 2011, Quartzsite received attention from around the globe. Shortly thereafter, Mayor Ed Foster, who had been censured, announced to media that the Town was under "Martial Law" and that Gilbert was "running the town". Foster's 2010 mayoral campaign was based on promises to "get rid of the Chief." Foster was ousted by voters in a recall election in 2011, but regained his Mayoral position in 2012. Foster spearheaded the attempt to oust the Police Chief for many years by filing more complaints with state agencies.

Several DPS investigations could not prove any wrong doing by the Chief. Gilbert continued in his position until September 2012 when Assistant Town Manager Al Johnson illegally placed him on paid administrative leave. Quartzsite Town Council then terminated Taft, and hired Interim Town Manager Laura Bruno. Council reinstated Gilbert on Sept. 25th, 2012. After Council granted Bruno another year contract, tensions increased between Bruno, Gilbert and Council members.

UPDATE: In an interview with Arizona Republic's Dennis Wagner, "Gilbert said his ouster was orchestrated to cover up an inquiry he launched into Town Council members for allegedly releasing confidential police documents.

On August 8, 2013 Council Member Mark Orgeron submitted two requests to Bruno requesting agenda items to be placed upcoming meetings; for the August 13th meeting Orgeron wanted "to define the office hours of the police department as well as when phones should be routed to central dispatch." Council held a lengthy discussion on this procedural matter. Planning ahead for the September 10th Town Council Meeting, Orgeron wanted to "recruit and hire an Interim Chief of Police," but this item did not appear on the meeting's agenda to be discussed.

Disagreements became evident during the September 24th council meeting. Bruno, Gilbert, and Town Attorneys disagreed about the proposed Police Policies which requires officers to video ALL contacts with citizens. Gilbert argued for the officers to able to use their professional judgement. Council approved the new policies with minor changes to read, "In the event a citizen requests that they not be recorded, the officer shall take the request into consideration." Citizens expressed their disagreement with their decision. Evidently, negotiations with Gilbert were already underway, as Council then went into executive session to "consider its position and instruct its attorneys regarding the Town's position regarding the contract with Police Chief Jeff Gilbert that is the subject of negotiations." Council took no action at that time.

Almost a full month later, Quartzsite Town Council terminated Gilbert's contract without any discussion or public comment. 

Following Tuesday's Council meeting, Gilbert's supporters expressed their disappointment, while Gilbert opponents jeered. 

Gilbert consoling his supporters after contract was terminated by council
Photo by Shanana Rain Golden-Bear
Desert Messenger


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