Avondale fired a police sergeant at least in part for making racist Facebook posts, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the termination.
Avondale fired Sergeant Sean Maas on September 13, 2018.
Reginald Sayles, a former Avondale police officer, learned of Maas' termination from current Avondale police employees. Sayles said the employees told him Maas was fired for making "racially insensitive" Facebook posts.
Another post by Maas' wife, Melissa Maas, allegedly targeted Sayles, who is black. The post featured an image of a two-headed gorilla eating a banana, which Sayles said he believes is a reference to him and his wife Erica Sayles, who is Hispanic.
Maas appealed his termination through Christine Bailey, an attorney who represents the Avondale police officers' union. The city of Avondale held the first half of a hearing on Maas' appeal at City Hall on December 5. Maas declined to comment when approached by a reporter during an intermission of his appeal hearing.
James Green, an attorney representing Erica and Reggie Sayles in a civil dispute with Sean and Melisaa Maas, said he spoke with Susan Segal, an attorney representing Avondale in Maas' appeal. Segal confirmed to Green that Maas was fired for making "three or four racially offensive" Facebook posts, Green said. Green also said Segal told him one of the posts referred to "a black person speaking in stereotypical black dialect."
Segal declined to speak on the record with Phoenix New Times about Maas' termination.
New Times attempted to learn more about Sergeant Maas' firing by attending his appeal hearing, but hearing officer Prudence Lee closed the meeting to the public on Bailey's request.
"Witnesses need to be able to speak freely, accurately, and truthfully regarding this matter," Bailey wrote in her request.
Arizona law states that officer discipline appeal hearings should be made open to the public, but Avondale city policy allows the hearings to be closed. In her request, Bailey cited another state law that allows Avondale to defer to its own policy, rather than Arizona statutes, if both parties agree.
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Segal did not object to closing the hearing. The second half of the hearing is scheduled to begin on December 17.
In addition to appealing his termination, Sergeant Maas is also involved in a complicated, years-long civil dispute with Reginald and Erica Sayles over a beauty salon.
Melissa Maas and Erica Sayles jointly owned Brush Salon LLC. Sayles claimed in a lawsuit that Melissa Maas improperly removed her as an owner of the company and added her husband, Sean.
She also claims that the couple stole property belonging to the salon, that they broke agreement to remove Sean as an owner, and that they defamed Erica by claiming she was the one who stole from the salon.