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Personnel Board Votes To Reinstate Officers

Former APD police officer Russell Perea, center, attends a hearing with his attorney Sam Bregman, right, on Wednesday. A city board voted to reinstate Perea's job. (Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Journal)
Former APD police officer Russell Perea, center, attends a hearing with his attorney Sam Bregman, right, on Wednesday. A city board voted to reinstate Perea's job. (Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Journal)
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The city Personnel Board on Wednesday voted unanimously to reinstate two fired Albuquerque police officers with back pay and benefits.

Russell Perea, who has spent 10 years in law enforcement, was fired in August for being untruthful about his involvement in the Levi Chavez matter.

And Mark Wilson, an Albuquerque Police Department rehire who has more than 20 years under his belt as a cop, was fired in March 2011 after he allegedly punched his girlfriend in the face four months earlier.

The city is considering whether to appeal the five-member personnel board’s decisions on Perea and Wilson to state District Court, Deputy City Attorney Kathy Levy said in an interview late Wednesday. Until the decision is made, which could take up to 30 days, neither officer will go back to work, she said.

Chavez, a former APD officer, is charged with murder in the October 2007 death of his wife, Tera Chavez. He was fired after his indictment on the charge earlier this year.

Tera Chavez, 26, was found dead of a gunshot wound to the mouth from her husband’s service revolver in the couple’s Los Lunas home. Her husband called 911 to report that his wife had killed herself.

Perea was on duty and sharing a police car with Levi Chavez on the evening Tera Chavez died. Inconsistencies between statements Perea made about where he and Levi Chavez were that night during a deposition in a civil wrongful death lawsuit, in an interview with Valencia County Sheriff’s deputies who were investigating Tera Chavez’s death and in an APD Internal Affairs investigation were the crux of the city’s argument for firing him, city hearing officer T. Zane Reeves wrote.

But APD officials never told Perea how he violated policies before they fired him, Reeves wrote. And APD Deputy Chiefs Allen Banks and Paul Feist were unable to prove during personnel hearings earlier this year that Perea had been untruthful.

In a 19-page opinion dated in February, Reeves blasted APD and the city, saying the city failed “to demonstrate employee wrongdoing, much less that he deserved to be discharged.”

The city sought to have Reeves removed from the case after he rendered his opinion, saying he was biased.

“It’s pretty transparently sour grapes, in my opinion,” Marty Esquivel, Reeves’ attorney, told the personnel board on Wednesday.

The board voted unanimously that removing Reeves was outside its purview, then accepted his recommendation that Perea get his job back.

Earlier in its meeting, the board decided to do the same for Wilson.

According to a criminal complaint, Wilson was working on taxes at his girlfriend’s house. The couple began arguing and when Wilson was walking away, and the girlfriend grabbed him to try to stop him. Wilson turned and punched her with his fist closed.

The woman had a cut on her lip and bruise on her chin, the complaint states.

Wilson told police she hit him first and that he acted in self-defense. He was arrested and charged with aggravated battery upon a household member — charges that were later dropped.

— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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