BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) – Two high-ranking officials with the Battle Creek Police Department have been fired, the city says.
“I did, in fact, terminate the two employees today, effective immediately,” Interim City Manager Susan Bedsole told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday.
Those two employees were Deputy Chief Jim Saylor and Inspector Maria Alonso. A Tuesday afternoon release from the City of Battle Creek said they were let go “following an internal investigation.”
The pair was initially placed on paid administrative leave in early March after “allegations of a hostile work environment created by a personal relationship” between them, the release from the city said. “Work performance issues also were explored.”
“Over the past several weeks we have conducted many, many interviews; reviewed documents,” Bedsole said.
The city says it interviewed more than 35 people, including current and former BCPD and city employees, and studied “many relevant documents, records and other information” during the seven weeks Saylor and Alonso were on leave. It had expected the investigation to take three or four weeks, but that was extended due to “scheduling conflicts related to some interviews,” the release said.
Bedsole decided after the investigation was completed that “the allegations were substantiated,” the release said. Saylor and Alonso were fired in writing.
“City officials are unable to discuss certain details related to the investigation pending a lawsuit related to the situation,” the release concluded.
That suit was filed in federal court earlier this month by Saylor and Alonso against the city, Mayor David Walters, Susan Bedsole and Interim Chief of Police Jim Blocker.
In a statement, Saylor and Alonso’s attorney Michael Pitt reiterated their allegation that they were targeted by a vendetta from Mayor Walters because they recommended last year that his son, a BCPD officer, be fired.
When asked by 24 Hour News 8 if that was the case, Bedsole said, “Absolutely not. Again, this is a personnel issue.”
Pitt’s statement also takes issue with the fact that neither Saylor or Alonso have been given the ability to confront their accusers. Bedsole said that is not the way things work during an investigation into an employee.
“You gather the information and then the determination is made. This is not a trial so you have the ability to place people on the stand and cross-examine them. That is not this type of process,” she said.
The statement also alleges the city “manufactured evidence” of misconduct by Saylor and Alonso. It says the city paid $31,000 to a “convicted criminal … for injuries that did not occur in an alleged excessive force case involving a Battle Creek officer” in an effort to show Saylor and Alonso “botched” the investigation into that case.
“The City, after suspending the Deputy Chief and Inspector, tracked down the man who was involved in the incident and paid him taxpayer money even though the man served 221 days in jail for resisting the officer and never made a claim for injuries or compensation,” the statement reads in part.
“Every City employee and citizen of Battle Creek should be distressed by the tactics employed by the City in this case,” the statement also said. “When City officials engage in this type of case tampering, no City employee or member of the community is safe.”
Pitt said in the statement that Saylor and Alonso’s suit “will get to the bottom of this governmental corruption.”
In the lawsuit, filed April 11, Saylor and Alonso alleged the suspension effectively ended their careers with BCPD and said they were defamed when it was announced to the public during a March 7 press conference.
They said they did not engage in a romantic relationship until after both were divorced, and that they had it approved by former police chief Jackie Hampton and former city manager Ken Tsuchiyama. The suit claims the pair was told the relationship was OK because Alonso did not report directly to Saylor.
They also allege Walters and other city officials pushed Tsuchiyama to resign.
Inside woodtv.com: Read the full lawsuit (pdf)
The full release from the City of Battle Creek:
“Battle Creek Police Department Deputy Chief Jim Saylor and Inspector Maria Alonso no longer work for the City of Battle Creek, following an internal investigation.
The city’s Human Resources Department, with assistance from the City Attorney’s Office, led the investigation, the most extensive the city has conducted in recent history. City officials interviewed more than 35 people during the seven-week process, lengthened from the originally-anticipated three to four weeks due to scheduling conflicts related to some interviews.
“Interviews were conducted with current and former employees of the Battle Creek Police Department, City of Battle Creek and other citizens. The Human Resources Department also reviewed many relevant documents, records and other information.
“Saylor and Alonso were placed on paid administrative leave in early March, a common tool used to remove employees from a situation and allow a fair investigative process. The investigation related to allegations of a hostile work environment created by a personal relationship between Saylor and Alonso. Work performance issues also were explored.
“Based upon the investigation’s findings, Interim City Manager Susan Bedsole concluded that the allegations were substantiated, resulting in the termination, in writing, of the two Police Department officials from their positions.
“City officials are unable to discuss certain details related to the investigation pending a lawsuit related to the situation.”
The full statement from Saylor and Alonso’s attorney Michael Pitt:
“Deputy Chief James Saylor, with 24 years of a spotless service record and Inspector Maria Alonso, with 18 years of excellent service to the Battle Creek Police Department were formally terminated today in retaliation for imposing discipline on the Mayor’s son and in violation of their constitutional rights.
“As public employees, they were entitled to a fair and impartial investigation before being publically accused of misconduct on the job. When they were placed on suspension seven weeks ago, they asked the City to identify their accusers. Seven weeks later the City has still refused to identify those people who allege that these two officers have engaged in misconduct.
“Every citizen in this country is entitled to know who their accusers are and have an opportunity to confront them. The Deputy Chief and Inspector have been denied this basic right. The egregious violation of their constitutional rights will be addressed in the pending federal lawsuit.
“Every City employee and citizen of Battle Creek should be distressed by the tactics employed by the City in this case.
As reported by the media, the City, in an effort to manufacture evidence against the Deputy Chief and Inspector, paid a convicted criminal $31,000 for injuries that did not occur in an alleged excessive force case involving a Battle Creek Officer. In a misguided effort to show that the Inspector and Deputy Chief botched an internal investigation of a case of possible police misconduct closed 2 years ago, the City, after suspending the Deputy Chief and Inspector, tracked down the man who was involved in the incident and paid him taxpayer money even though the man served 221 days in jail for resisting the officer and never made a claim for injuries or compensation.
“When City officials engage in this type of case tampering, no City employee or member of the community is safe. The pending federal lawsuit will get to the bottom of this governmental corruption.”