By Monica Alonzo
By Ray Stern
By New Times Staff
By Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Robrt L. Pela
Behind closed doors, they say, the chief was occasionally reined in. When his attacks on the Civil Service Board became too strident, Pell says, Ortega was "told by the city manager that he had to tone down some stuff, that he was going too far."
For the most part, however, the council--without a majority willing to cross the Rubicon and engage Ortega--timidly allowed the chief to run his own show because he was simply too powerful to take on publicly.
Pell says that, in private meetings, he would urge his fellow councilmembers to hold the chief accountable. "My position at the time was that it was not like Ruben Ortega was appointed czar or God or something," Pell says. "He was a city employee like 15,000 other people and everybody that's a city employee has to answer to somebody. Not Ortega."
McElfresh says that, when the attacks on her and other Civil Service Board members became outlandish, she was among a group of Ortega's foes who went to Mayor Terry Goddard asking that the chief be called to task.
She left the meeting frustrated, she says, because Goddard's reaction was, "We know he does these things and there's nothing we can do about it."
Goddard could not be reached for comment on Ortega. Andrews, city manager during the bulk of Ortega's tenure, declined to discuss the chief.
"That's history as far as I'm concerned," Andrews says. "Very briefly, I think he did an excellent job as chief. Period."
@body:During the last few years of his tenure, Ortega found himself fighting wars on many fronts. Gay leaders were challenging the department's perceived harassment of homosexuals. They were angered by reports that, when asked once how much gay-bashing occurred in Phoenix, Ortega responded, "Not enough."
Black leaders were also facing off with the chief over reports of excessive police force being used against minorities.
The chief responded in form, by investigating those who rose up to challenge his department. When the Reverend Oscar Tillman of the Phoenix NAACP began challenging him, Ortega had investigators contact police in Tacoma, Washington, where Tillman had previously worked, to check his background.
Tillman, now working with the NAACP in Denver, says Ortega tried to have him fired from his job after Tillman publicly demanded the chief's resignation.
"The bottom line is, he was a direct clone of J. Edgar Hoover style of management," Tillman says. "Management through intimidation and management by fear. And the most important thing, management by files."
Journalists whose news reports questioned the chief were hardly immune from Ortega's scrutiny.
Elizabeth Vargas, a former reporter with Channel 3, and Michael Lacey, executive editor of New Times, each learned that lesson personally.
In early 1988, New Times was preparing to publish the results of a lengthy investigation into crack sales and drug dealing at Keys Market on Broadway and 24th Street. Brazen drug sales and lax law enforcement had made the corner the most dangerous in Phoenix.
The day before the New Times article was to appear, a host of Phoenix police officers--with invited reporters in tow--descended on the corner to make arrests as television cameras rolled.
Ortega denied that the raid was related to the newspaper story. But the showy bust did, indeed, turn out to be more than a coincidence. Television reporter Vargas later learned that Ortega had ordered an expedited sweep at the corner to preempt the New Times story.
Vargas, now working for a Chicago station, says undercover narcotics officers who had already been investigating drug activity at Keys Market showed her a memo from the chief ordering the quickie raid.
"His own undercover cops were calling him a liar," she says. "The undercover narcs thought that he jeopardized the investigation by making them speed up the investigation."
When her reports aired, Vargas recalls, Ortega attacked, demanding a meeting with her bosses to question the reports.
"He accused me of changing the memo," she says. "He accused me of sleeping with these guys, which was ludicrous. He very clearly went out of his way to try to ruin me professionally."
Vargas was not the only journalist Ortega targeted.
Sometime in late 1987 or 1988, Ortega asked his long-ago partner Ralph Milstead to have the state Department of Public Safety investigate New Times' Lacey for alleged cocaine smuggling.
Milstead, who confirmed that DPS investigated the New Times editor, said Ortega did not want the Phoenix Police Department's "fingerprints" on the case because Lacey was a frequent critic of the chief.
According to Milstead, Ortega justified the investigation by claiming that Lacey might be a cocaine smuggler. The police chief told Milstead that his information came from Arizona Republic reporter Randy Collier.
(Collier denies making the allegation, and says it was Ortega who asked him if Lacey was dealing drugs. In an observation somewhat unusual for a journalist, Collier also notes that Lacey shouldn't have been surprised that he was investigated. "He was always writing bad things about the cops and then expected them to treat him nice?" Collier says. "Well, this is how they get their sweet revenge. He ought to know that. I think it's a feather in his cap that he was investigated and they didn't come up with anything.)
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city