PHOENIX — Chief Jeri Williams and her second-in-command still have a “terrific relationship” in the wake of a major ABC15 investigation, according to a statement sent by the department.
“Chief Williams bought lunch for Chief Kurtenbach yesterday,” a spokesperson wrote in an email. “They have a terrific working relationship and have for many years. To imply otherwise is a complete mischaracterization.”
Sources told ABC15 that Williams and Kurtenbach were not communicating after ABC15 aired secret recordings of him talking to colleagues in the wake of a major department scandal last year.
The recordings capture Kurtenbach telling other assistant chiefs that Williams misled the public and city council when she claimed she didn’t have knowledge of a controversial case in which protesters were falsely charged as gang members.
“The boss herself knew about this for months,” he said. “We didn’t hide it.”
In the wake of the scandal, Williams demoted three assistant chiefs, who are now suing the city for defamation and a violation of their employment rights. Williams told the city council at the conclusion of an outside investigation that the trio failed to inform her of the case.
In a series of reports titled “Politically Charged,” ABC15 irrefutably proved that Phoenix officers colluded with county prosecutors to invent a gang and then charge protesters as members. The evidence was fabricated, and officials lied to a confidential grand jury to obtain the charges.
In addition to responding to concerns about the working relationship between Williams and Kurtenbach, a spokesperson said the chief had not watched ABC15’s recent reports.
“While Chief Williams and Chief Kurtenbach are aware of some of your recent reports, they have not watched them,” the spokesperson said.
City Manager Jeff Barton refused to comment on the recording scandal before a city council meeting earlier this week.
Contact ABC15 Chief Investigator Dave Biscobing at Dave@ABC15.com.