Gay City Officials Accused of Meddling in Phoenix PD Investigation
Phoenix police Sergeant Mark Schweikert, supervisor of a former Phoenix police detective accused of having sex with two teenage boys, contends that two city officials meddled in his efforts to deal with the detective's work problems.
In a 22-page memo, Schweikert alleges that Phoenix Councilman Tom Simplot and Assistant Police Chief Tracy Montgomery, both openly gay, interfered in his dealings with Detective Chris Wilson.
Schweikert reveals that he was "concerned" about Wilson's emotional state and knew that "Wilson [was] up to something" in the weeks leading up to his arrest.
Phoenix Police Department spokesman Trent Crump says department officials, including Montgomery, aren't commenting on the matter because it's under review.
However, Simplot's office provided New Times a copy of a November 28 statement by Police Chief Daniel Garcia to City Manager David Cavazos addressing "the question of . . . Simplot's alleged involvement in influencing . . . Schweikert's actions in the supervision of former Detective Chris Wilson."
Garcia writes that he has "no information that would support the allegation" and is "not aware of any involvement by [Simplot] in attempting to influence [Schweikert]" in supervising Wilson.
Police arrested Wilson, 43, on August 7 in the alleged sexual assaults of a 14- and 17-year-old between April and July. Wilson served on the PPD's Community Response Squad as outreach officer to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
Schweikert says Wilson "would make his close relationship with Councilman Simplot known" and "would brag about being Councilman Simplot's workout partner."
Schweikert writes, "Wilson advised me on several occasions that he was invited to attend formal events with Simplot."
The councilman tells New Times that he hasn't read the memo but that he never intervenes in matters involving city employees.
The allegations are under investigation by the city's Equal Opportunity Department, where Schweikert filed a formal complaint in late September that officials created a hostile work environment for him with their interference.
Schweikert apparently had complained to the EOD before September about Montgomery's "interfering" with the management of his squad, but it went ignored, he says.
"As time passed, no one ever followed up," Schweikert says.
Schweikert's contentions are explosive because Wilson met the boys he's accused of sexually assaulting as a liaison officer. And there were complaints about Wilson from the community, says Schweikert — including that Wilson didn't communicate well, was not connecting with gay churches or gay businesses, was arrogant, was unapproachable, and was "an asshole."
But Schweikert says he didn't feel — given Wilson's political connections — that he could act on those complaints or take any action against Wilson.
It's only speculation whether Wilson would have remained in his post and engaged in the alleged subsequent sexual assaults if Schweikert had addressed the problems with Wilson.
Wilson would "infer that his attendance at various LGBT functions was mandated by [Simplot]," Schweikert writes.
Simplot says Wilson clearly was "not the person any of us thought he was. He is a confessed pedophile. He manipulated the community. He manipulated the police department. He manipulated City Hall. I have to believe that Officer Wilson was manipulating his boss like he manipulated everybody else."
Simplot acknowledges that he and Wilson worked out at the same gym. He says Wilson's role as liaison officer did require him to attend LGBT community events.
"That's his job description," Simplot says, adding that Wilson apparently would take "a kernel of fact and blow it up."
When issues involving Wilson arose, Schweikert says, any actions he took were given special scrutiny by Montgomery. Schweikert says his superiors would advise him "not to make an issue of it" and let them "do what they wanted to do."
In his memo, Schweikert recalls an instance in which Wilson was investigating a complaint of misconduct against another police officer. Schweikert claims Montgomery told him to put things on hold.
Schweikert says he agreed and told Wilson to cease his investigation based on Montgomery's order.
Schweikert says he later was called into Montgomery's office and accused of "disobeying her directives." He says she was "angry and proceeded to berate me."
Montgomery had given a different order to Wilson regarding the investigation of this police officer, Schweikert says, and she "advised me that I had no right to order Mr. Wilson to stop his investigation."
Schweikert says he tried to explain that he was only doing what she asked. He says "she slowed her speech to . . . indicate I was slow to understand."
He writes that Montgomery said to him: "Mark, I'm going to be direct with you . . . Chris answers to me. You are working in a very political position. Your performance has been fine. We are not at that point of having you removed."
He says he took the comments as a veiled threat.
Schweikert told one police commander about "how difficult it was . . . to supervise Mr. Wilson" and that "Wilson would report directly" to Simplot or Montgomery.
When Wilson was "hostile toward a fellow teammate," Schweikert says, he brought Wilson into his office and told him "his behavior . . . was inappropriate" and documented the incident in Wilson's file.
"During this time period, Assistant Chief Montgomery was questioning my team's tactics on a regular basis, and she seemed extra critical of my work since I had coached Mr. Wilson" about his behavior toward a fellow cop, Schweikert writes.
During the Pride Festival, Schweikert says, Wilson "went against . . . team protocol" and used "false pretenses" to get a marked police car into the festival's parade.
Schweikert writes that his lieutenant told him "not to make and issue of it."
Schweikert continues: "Wilson . . . failed to consult me" and was "untouchable because of the protection granted . . . by Assistant Chief Montgomery."
Schweikert says Wilson arranged for them to meet with Megan Schmitz, Simplot's chief of staff.
Schmitz also is chair of the board of directors for 1 n 10 Youth Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building self-esteem and acceptance among LGBT youth.
While the three were in the meeting room, Schweikert says, Schmitz told him at the last minute that Simplot also would attend.
"Schmitz focused the conversation on how great Mr. Wilson has been to her and Councilman Simplot. The accolades for Mr. Wilson, in my opinion, were in response to counter the negative feedback Mr. Wilson had received" from members of the LGBT community.
During the conversation, Schweikert says, Simplot walked into the room and "thanked me for allowing Mr. Wilson to work with him, and he noted what a great job Mr. Wilson was doing" before leaving the room.
"I felt that Councilman Simplot was using his position to influence me not to take supervisory action toward Mr. Wilson and discount any negative feedback [about Wilson] from various community members," Schweikert writes. "I felt that Councilman Simplot was trying to intimidate me."
Simplot says he pops in and out of meetings all the time: "Clearly, Wilson is a master at manipulation."
Schweikert's memo details noticeable changes in Wilson's behavior in the weeks before his arrest.
"I observed that he had been distant at work, and he did not seem happy," Schweikert writes. "I was concerned about Mr. Wilson, but I did not have enough to articulate a request for a work fitness evaluation . . . I felt that he could lose his temper at any moment."
Schweikert notes at least one occasion when Wilson took one of the boys he later was alleged to have abused to the dentist.
"I did not think what Mr. Wilson was doing [was] appropriate, but it was not a violation of policy," he writes. "I did not question what Mr. Wilson did with his personal time."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.