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Scottsdale police commander claims he was fired for reporting assistant chief’s homophobic remarks

A lawsuit claims that Aaron Minor was fired after he reported homophobic remarks made by an assistant chief during a meeting.
Credit: Scottsdale Police Department
Aaron Minor

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A Scottsdale police commander has filed a lawsuit against the city of Scottsdale and the Scottsdale Police Department chief after he claimed he was unlawfully fired, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint claims Aaron Minor, a more than 20-year veteran of the department, was the target of an internal investigation and fired after he reported homophobic remarks made by an assistant chief during a meeting. 

According to the claim, Minor became Scottsdale Police Department’s first black commander in 2014.

The claim names the city of Scottsdale, Scottsdale Police Chief Alan Rodbell and Donna Brown, the executive director of human resources for the city, as defendants in the case.

Minor and the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit are asking for a jury trial.

The Scottsdale Police Department did not provide a comment to 12 News, citing pending litigation. The City Office of Communications said in a Wednesday statement that it "disagrees" with "many" of the allegations in the lawsuit. 

"An internal investigation was completed this summer and determined that remarks made by a Scottsdale Assistant Police Chief were unprofessional, but that there was no discriminatory intent toward any person or group," part of the statement read. "The Assistant Police Chief issued an apology and was appropriately disciplined."

What is being alleged?

Minor attended a bi-monthly ops meeting for commanders and lieutenants in May 2019. That meeting was led by Scottsdale Assistant Police Chief Richard Slavin, according to the claim.

It was during that meeting that Slavin more “multiple homophobic remarks,” the claim says. According to the claim, Slavin “attempted to lighten the mood by making homophobic remarks” after discussing a police incident involving the department’s only openly gay supervisor.

The claim says Slavin, in regards to a training he had attended led by a French police supervisor, said the police supervisor was “probably gay” and when another officer laughed, Slavin asked that officer, “Are you gay?”

Minor reported the remarks

The claim says another lieutenant at the meeting took “contemporaneous notes” of Slavin’s remarks and was so concerned by the comments that he reported them to Minor, the lieutenant's direct supervisor.

Minor then reported Slavin's remarks to Assistant Police Chief Scott Popp, saying he and the lieutenant were "shocked" by the "homophobic remarks." 

Minor also “directly confronted” Slavin about the remarks. According to the claim, Slavin sent an email, copying Police Chief Alan Rodbell, saying in part that he remembered making the comments and was “truly sorry for doing so.” He referred to it as a “failed attempt at a joke,” the complaint shows.

The complaint claims Slavin spoke with Rodbell and “admitted to conduct that would constitute a violation” of the city’s Anti-Discrimination and Non-Harassment Policy, which could result in discipline up to and including being fired, the complaint says.

The complaint, however, says Slavin provided a “false and misleading recount” of what happened and did not tell Rodbell that he had asked another department supervisor if he was gay during the meeting.

The alleged violation was never reported to human resources, as is required by city of Scottsdale policy, the complaint says. Slavin was instead given "verbal counseling" by Rodbell, the complaint claims.

An internal investigation 

After six weeks without a formal investigation, the complaint says an internal investigation was launched after Rodbell received an email from the president of the Police Officers of Scottsdale Association requesting a formal investigation into the matter. The rep said there were “numerous” allegations that Slavin made the homophobic remarks.

The complaint says multiple witnesses, including Minor, were interviewed as part of the investigation. 

Slavin was interviewed on the first day of the internal anti-discrimination investigation, but the complaint says he was not truthful.

According to the complaint, “multiple witnesses provided false and misleading” statements and investigators did not “follow-up on any inconsistencies in witness statements.” 

Investigators also asked Minor different questions than other witnesses, did not interview Rodbell and did not re-interview Slavin, according to the complaint.

The complaint says despite “significant deficiencies” in the investigation, the allegations against Slavin were supported, but Chief Rodbell took “no further disciplinary action.”

The investigation into Minor

Instead, the complaint claimed, Rodbell launched an internal investigation into Minor, who had “reported Assistant Chief Slavin’s misconduct at the Ops meeting through his chain of command.”

According to the complaint, Minor was notified by his supervisor that he was going to be facing an internal investigation, alleging that he “did not respond with integrity” during the investigation. Minor was told by his supervisor that he be “fine” if he answered the few questions Rodbell wanted answered “right.”

On Oct. 3, feeling the internal investigation was “retaliatory,” Minor prepared and submitted written allegations accusing Rodbell of “mismanagement and abuses of authority.” He also provided an interview discussing his written allegations, the complaint shows.

According to the complaint, Minor requested that Scottsdale’s city manager review his concerns. Popp told Minor that Rodbell was "not happy" with his responses to the questions and that Minor's responses would not have the effect that Minor desired. 

He told Minor that he believed that, as a result of Minor's answers to the questions, that Minor would be fired.

Minor is fired

According to the complaint, Minor received the call on Oct. 21 from HR that he must report to Rodbell’s office. Rodbell and Donna Brown were both present at the meeting.

At that meeting, Minor received a pre-signed termination letter that said in part, “We have lost and confidence in your ability to fulfill the duties and expectations of this position,” according to the complaint.

Credit: Courtesy of Aaron Minor

The complaint says Minor was not given the opportunity to give reasons why he should not be terminated and he was told he would have to make a public records request if he wanted to see the investigation that was the “basis of his purported termination.”

The letter of dismissal that Minor received alleged that he is not entitled to any appeal of his termination, the lawsuit claimed. The lawsuit also claims that the letter and Scottsdale City Code that denies Minor's appeal violates state law and Minor's right to due process. 

The lawsuit claims Rodbell intentionally or recklessly ordered an investigation against Minor that deprived him of the ability to respond to the allegations against him and that Brown permitted an investigation against Minor without ensuring he received proper procedural protections. 

The lack of an appeals process will cause actual damages in the form of time and money that will be used to defend the "procedurally deficient process and investigative result," the lawsuit claimed.