Reports: Goodyear officials lied about conversations over fake license plate

Posted 1/24/20

The city of Goodyear has released reports of two police officials who were put on leave due to allegations of impropriety.

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Reports: Goodyear officials lied about conversations over fake license plate

Posted

The city of Goodyear has released reports of two police officials who were put on leave due to allegations of impropriety.

Documents were made available for then Administrative Services Manager Susan Petty — who was later demoted to an assistant — and Office Kyle Cluff, who has resigned.

The investigative reports for fired Chief Jerry Geier and Deputy Chief Justin Hughes remain confidential as the former plans to appeal his firing and the latter is on personal leave.

All four had been suspended in October due to allegations of impropriety, which officials said were non-criminal and non-financial in nature.

According to the reports, the suspensions appear related to an Oct. 2, 2019 incident where a briefing discussed the use of an unauthorized fake license plate on a vehicle operated by the Neighborhood Enforcement Team. Unaware of that, a Goodyear officer had pulled over the van on Oct. 1.

Still at the meeting, Mr. Cluff told the others that it was a violation of police policy for the NET to use an unauthorized plate. A lieutenant then told Mr. Cluff that he would address the issue with command staff.

However, it turned out that someone had informed then Chief Jerry Geier of the issue, which reportedly undermined the chain of command.

A Goodyear official — whose named is redacted in the report — suspected that Mr. Cluff had told Ms. Petty — a close friend of Mr. Cluff and a longtime assistant to Mr. Geier — according to the report.

However, in multiple but separate talks with Mr. Cluff and Ms. Petty, both denied to that unnamed official and Deputy Chief Santiago Rodriguez that Mr. Cluff had told Ms. Petty about the issue.

Both reports indicate Mr. Cluff and Ms. Petty appeared nervous throughout their interactions with Mr. Rodriguez and the other unnamed official. Further, the questioning officials didn’t believe that Mr. Cluff was telling the truth.

However, Mr. Rodriguez noted that the unnamed official appeared frustrated, agitated and “on a mission” during the interviews. He said that even though the official appeared to have the answers needed, the official kept questioning Mr. Cluff as to drag him and Ms. Petty into more lies.

In one of the interviews, Mr. Cluff said he was scared to admit that he had talked to Ms. Petty about the license plate. Mr. Cluff claimed he was physically scared and didn’t know the mental or physical intentions of the unnamed official.

“I reported a crime against one of his friends and he was instantly coming after me and it appeared that he was not dealing with the crime,” Mr. Cluff stated. “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.”

Ms. Petty would later admit that Mr. Cluff had told her about the plate issue but claimed that the unnamed official appeared to be on a “witch hunt.”

Ms. Petty said when Mr. Cluff disclosed the briefing to her, she could tell Mr. Cluff was frustrated and troubled that other officers at the briefing weren’t taking the issue of the fake plates seriously. However, Ms. Petty agreed about the unauthorized use.

According to the report, Ms. Petty had seen the NET van in the department parking lot with fake California plates weeks before the issue arose. At that time, an official was told to stop using the plates. Later, that official told Ms. Petty that he got the plates from a Mesa detective and that there was an officer exception. But Ms. Petty disagreed and stressed a safety issue.

So, when Mr. Cluff told her about the issue weeks later, Ms. Petty had already known that the officer had been told to stop using the plates. However, she never told Mr. Cluff about that time, according to the report.

The investigations of Mr. Cluff and Ms. Petty came to determine that although the unauthorized plate was a serious issue, the two were untruthful in denying their conversations with each other about it.

However, the findings note that the questioning by the unnamed official spiraled out of control due in part to his inability to realize that a measured approach might have been more appropriate and conductive. The interrogations also appeared to be inappropriately intense given the comparative insignificance of the issue.

The report also seems to back the beliefs by Mr. Rodriguez and Ms. Petty that the unnamed official was “on a mission” to catch Ms. Petty and Mr. Cluff “in a lie, which is a violation of policy.”

According to the report the following officials were interviewed as part of the investigation: Chief Jerry Geier, Deputy Chief Justin Hughes, Sgt. Jason Bayer, Deputy Chief Santiago Rodriguez, Lt. Joe Pacello, Officer Kyle Cluff and Susan Petty.

Goodyear spokeswoman Tammy Vo confirmed that Susan Petty has returned to work at the city. She was demoted to a management assistant. In addition, Officer Kyle Cluff resigned before any discipline could be considered. In the report, Ms. Petty noted that she had talked to Mr. Cluff about his application to the Phoenix Police Department.

The investigation involving Deputy Chief Justin Hughes has concluded, but the findings of his investigation cannot be released until any disciplinary action has been considered. However, that will only take place until he returned from extended personal leave.

Jerry Geier, who was fired in late December, is appealing his termination but a hearing has not been scheduled yet.

Santiago Rodriguez is currently serving as the interim police chief.

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