Andrew Thomas' Office Puts Man Who Filed Racial Discrimination Complaint On Paid Leave For Eight Months, Lawyer Says

By Ray Stern Racial discrimination and retaliation is rampant at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, according to an anonymous letter received this week by New Times.

A local lawyer for one of the alleged victims tells New Times that, in one case, the office began an internal investigation into alleged wrongdoing by a man who had previously filed a racial discrimination complaint. While conducting that investigation, the office has kept the employee on paid leave for more than eight months, the lawyer says.

The letter alleges that two black former employees and one current Hispanic employee of the county attorney's office are among several people who have filed discrimination complaints.

The letter was accompanied by two documents that appear to be internal complaint forms from the office: One is from a woman named Mary Turner Allen who now works for the Town of Maricopa Police department; the other, dated January 17, 2007, is from a man named Manuel Saldate.

Neither the letter nor the apparent internal documents give full details about the alleged discrimination. Allen did not return repeated calls, and Saldate would not comment when called by New Times, instead referring all comments to his Phoenix lawyer, Kraig Marton.

According to the letter, a Hispanic detective for the office -- later confirmed by Marton as Saldate -- complained after he failed to receive transfers to "better positions" that he'd requested. In one instance, the letter states, the detective was the only employee to put in for a transfer to "the drug section." Yet in each case, white employees were selected for the positions.

Saldate filed a discrimination complaint, and an internal investigation cleared the office of any wrongdoing, the letter says. Other Hispanic detectives in the office apparently became concerned of similar treatment following rumors of a pending transfer and promotion of a newly hired white detective who had less seniority than the Hispanics. The letter states that some of the Hispanics were called into a meeting by management to counter allegations of discrimination and favoritism.

Some of the Hispanic detectives had tried "for years" to get a transfer to the office's Mesa location, since it was closer to their homes, the letter states.

"Instead they sent the new White detective and gave him a take home car which nobody is supposed to know about," the letter states.

After one manager left the office, the new manager told the detective staff that if anyone feels they were discriminated, they should file a complaint. The detective -- Saldate -- then filed a federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the office, the letter states.

"This pisses them off so the next thing you know the Mexican detective is on paid leave and is told to stay home," the letter states. "I guess the thing they got him for is technical b.s. which normally takes like a month to investigate, but this guy has been off for 8 or 9 months. He is going to get fired but they're not going to fire him until after the election to keep him quiet."

Marton, Saldate's lawyer, would not comment on the letter. However, he prepared a statement and later read it to New Times:

Manny Saldate has been on a paid administrative leave since January 23, 2008. To date, the department has not taken any action related to that leave. Mr. Saldate denies engaging in any conduct that would justify termination. We reserve further comment until the department takes action, if any, on its pending investigation.

Allen's December 6, 2006 complaint form was accompanied by a memo she apparently wrote the same day which explains her grievance. She claims the department's rejection of her request to be assigned to an office project taking place at her own church was the result of racial discrimination.

"This appears and feels like Racial Discrimination," the Allen memo states. "This event was being held at an African American Church and our unit did not allow the only African American Detective, who volunteered, to participate."

In an attempt to verify the complaint forms, New Times e-mailed both forms to Michael Scerbo, the media contact and spokesperson for the county attorney's office. New Times offered Andrew Thomas or Scerbo the chance to comment on the discrimination allegations.

So far, Thomas' office has chosen to remain silent.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.