Phoenix Constable Cited for Bullying Russian-American Shopkeeper

Constable Doug Middleton, left, argues with Nerik Gadaev, owner of Yasha From Russia.
Constable Doug Middleton, left, argues with Nerik Gadaev, owner of Yasha From Russia. Screenshot
Doug Middleton, a local constable who bullied a local Russian-American shopkeeper in his own store last July, has been cited for his bad conduct. He's also been mandated to undergo an anger management course.

Back in July, Middleton, who has been an elected constable in northeast Phoenix since the late '90s, was captured on video bullying Nerik Gadaev, the owner of Yasha From Russia, a deli and grocery with eastern European fare.

Middleton threatened to throw employees "out the door" and "sell" their property over a $3,400 debt that he owed to a California-based food vendor as a result of a judgment. Middleton also told Gadaev, who is of Russian descent but was born in Brooklyn, "I'm not in your country, I don't play your rules."

Gadaev subsequently filed a complaint on July 7 with the Constable Ethics, Standards & Training Board, the entity that handles complaints against elected constables in Arizona. Months later, on September 10, the board issued its verdict in the case to Middleton, stating in a letter to him that "Board members concluded your actions regarding this case were unacceptable." They cited numerous provisions of the Constables Code of Conduct, including a requirement that constables "perform their duties without bias or prejudice."

"Election to public office is a sacred trust, and constables must follow the highest standards of conduct at all times by striving to meet and exceed the standards set forth in this code," the letter states, which was obtained by New Times through a public records request. "Being elected does not give a public official the right to ignore the law or treat others with indifference or disrespect. To the contrary, a public official is the servant of those who elected them to office."

The board slapped Middleton with 30 days of probation, a letter of admonishment, and is requiring that he attend an anger-management course. The letter ordered Middleton to register for a course offered by "Wise Choice Alternatives" within two weeks of the letter's date. It went on to note that Wise Choice will be "reporting" Middleton's progress "directly to the Board."

Middleton did not respond to New Times' requests for comment on the ruling.

As New Times reported back in July, Middleton has a history of inappropriate conduct. Court records show that he was convicted in Maricopa County Superior Court of disorderly conduct and filing a false police report in 2001. Years later, in 2017, the Constable Ethics, Standards and Training Board determined that he had made offensive comments to a property owner while serving a writ of restitution, and issued a warning letter.

Middleton had filed a statement of interest to retain his state prior to the August primary election, but he won't appear on the November ballot. He also flirted with pursuing a bid for Phoenix City Council over the summer and filed a statement of interest before the primary, but never followed through.
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Josh Kelety is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. Previously, he worked as a reporter for the Inlander and Seattle Weekly.
Contact: Josh Kelety