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Arizona Paper Seeks City Records on Firings

PHOENIX (CN) - Officials in Surprise, Ariz., failed to produce documents relating to the firings of detectives Apreel Nye and Rosemary Garcia and of Officer Jeremy Atwell, the publisher of The Arizona Republic claims in Maricopa County Court.

According to Phoenix Newspapers, the police department fired Nye and Garcia in February after they failed to cooperate with an internal investigation stemming from an allegation the detectives made against Atwell.

The department "concluded the allegation made by Nye and Garcia was unsubstantiated ... (and) a notice of investigation delivered to Nye and Garcia said that one of the two used a Phoenix pay telephone to call the Department's professional standards sergeant and accuse Atwell of wrongdoing," the lawsuit claims.

Atwell was fired after he failed to report to work for three days, the complaint says. In 2008 he was suspended for 40 hours after he failed to tell his supervisors about his use of a confidential source and encouraged a training officer to write false reports about drug arrests.

Nye was also suspended in 2008, the publisher claims, after she was pulled over by an off-duty Maricopa County sheriff's deputy after she left a bar. The deputy did not cite her, although she allegedly had a blood-alcohol level of .10.

The Arizona Republic first requested the records on March 4. The city released several documents, but Surprise City Manager Charles "Randy" Oliver denied the company's request to inspect the records because it might cause "harm to the Department's ability to conduct internal investigations," the publisher claims.

The newspaper requested the records again on March 24 and says Surprise City Attorney Michael D. Bailey replied that he thought all of the records had been passed over. After a third request, Bailey sided with Oliver's statement that their release would harm the investigation, the newspaper claims.

The publisher claims it is entitled to view the records, because "the public has a strong interest in monitoring the performance of its public employees - in particular, police officers who are hired to protect the public, as well as the city that fires them based on an internal investigation."

Phoenix Newspapers is represented by David J. Bodney and Chris Moeser of Steptoe & Johnson.

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