Documents: PHX officials decided to place kidnapping stats whistleblower under investigation

PHOENIX - Top Phoenix city and police leaders met in an undisclosed meeting and decided to place a whistleblower under investigation, according to documents obtained by the ABC15 Investigators.

Officials have repeatedly denied that they retaliated against Sgt. Phil Roberts for writing several memos about Phoenix's inaccurate kidnapping statistics. However, the new information contradicts their claims.

The documents include depositions, handwritten notes and internal emails. The records have been verified though multiple sources.

"Phil finally wrote one too many memos, named too many people," said Dave Kothe, a retired officer and union vice president. "(Phoenix officials) had enough, (they) we're going to do something about it."

Phoenix Police and other city officials declined to comment for this story.

But Kothe has inside knowledge of the Roberts situation.

He worked on the case while serving with the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, or PLEA.

One week after Sgt. Roberts wrote a memo highlighting bad statistics, top leaders from the city and police department called a meeting on the 12 th floor of city hall.

On August 18, 2010, officials met to discuss what to do about Sgt. Roberts, records show.

"They went after him and retaliated against him," Kothe said.

According to handwritten notes by an official at the meeting, in attendance were former Public Safety Manager Jack Harris, Assistant City Manager Ed Zuercher, City Attorney Gary Verburg as well as the city's human resources director, public information officer and a police department spokesman.

The notes also indicate that officials "directed staff to investigate Phil Roberts."

"What Phil was reporting was that high-level city officials were giving bad information, inaccurate information, to the federal government for grants," Kothe said.

The ABC15 Investigators spent months digging through Phoenix's kidnapping statistics . Our review confirmed what Sgt. Roberts claimed: Hundreds of crimes were misrepresented to receive millions in federal grant funds.

The actions taken against Sgt. Roberts concern one city councilman.

"He goes through this nightmare, years of a nightmare," Councilman Sal Diciccio said.

Sgt. Roberts has filed a lawsuit against the city.

Diciccio said it appears that the city and police department are now trying to strong-arm Sgt. Roberts.

Phoenix Police opened five separate internal investigations against him in the months following his memos. The department then held those investigations open for the past two years.

Recent emails show, city attorney's wrote to Sgt. Roberts' attorneys and said that the city would send him to a discipline board if he didn't stop his lawsuit and go into mediation.

Sgt. Roberts declined.

The discipline review board moved to fire him a few days later. Chief Daniel Garcia has not given the termination final approval.

"I think this should send a shiver up every police officers' back and the publics' back," Diciccio said.

The documents obtained by the ABC15 Investigators also show that a Phoenix lieutenant may have given false information to federal investigators.

"There are contradictions," Kothe said.

The Office of Inspector General conducted two investigations of Phoenix Police – one about inaccurate kidnapping statistics and the other looking at retaliation against Sgt. Roberts.

In the final report of the retaliation investigation, OIG agents stated that Lt. Linda Meraz said that "she made the decision to investigate Roberts before August 2010."

The report also said that Meraz claimed "no one in the PPD command staff or other official directed her to investigate Roberts."

The documents we obtained directly contradict those statements.

Months after the report was released, Lt. Meraz abruptly resigned from the Phoenix Police Department.

It's not clear if the city has informed the OIG about the conflicting information or if they have provided the documents we obtained to federal agents.

Kothe doesn't believe they have.

"That can spin into a lot of things," he said. "Maybe a re-investigation by the OIG."

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