Himanshu Patel, who spent about a decade managing the town of Florence, now is vying to become Cave Creek city manager. Patel is competing against Peter Jankowski, from Massachussetts, and James Palenick, from North Carolina, for the job. And Cave Creek town officials are expected to make a final decision at December 16 council meeting.
While he had a long stint in Florence, questions have been raised about his final act as a Florence official.
See also: - Injustice for All: The Florence PD Compromised Public Safety - How Florence Police Sabotaged Investigations of a Child's Slaying and Teen's Rape - Tragic Consequences Follow Mayor Rankin's Control of Politics and Police in Florence In December 2012, Patel played a key role in damaging the careers of two cops -- Walt "Hondo" Hunter and Jarris Varnrobinson -- by firing them based on bogus allegations.
Although he claimed in town documents that he carefully reviewed the allegations against the officers, as well as their response to allegations against them, he told a different story under oath when the pair appealed their firing.
The legal proceedings revealed that instead of an investigation, Patel followed the lead of Florence Police Chief Dan Hughes and Lieutenant Terry Tryon.
Patel, who had final responsibility for firing police employees, did not conduct an investigation of the allegations against the two detectives, the appeals hearings revealed.
Both are taking legal action against the town.
It was clear during the hearings that Patel was aware of the bad blood between the detectives and Tryon because of the detectives' loyalty to the police chief who preceded Hughes.
Generally, it went down this way: Tryon gathered "evidence" against the detectives and turned it over to Hughes. In turn, Hughes parroted Tryon's point of view.
Hughes didn't notify either detective that he was under investigation. He offered them no chance to respond to allegations he sent up to Patel for review.
At that point, it was Patel's decision to make. When he received Hughes' memos, Patel sent a notice of "intent to terminate" to both Varnrobinson and Hunter. It was only then that they had an opportunity to respond to the allegations.
They both did, explaining in detail why the allegations were false.
For instance, Hughes told Patel that the cops should be fired because they reopened a 2009 child-homicide investigation just to make Tryon and the detective who originally worked on the case look bad.
The truth was that former Florence Police Chief Bob Ingulli ordered the pair to look into the badly botched case.
Hughes also said they needed to be fired because they harshly interviewed the victim of an alleged sexual assault years earlier.
The truth was, they'd already been counseled for that incident and received additional training on handling such cases. The settled incident took place years before Hughes arrived in Florence.
Hughes accused the pair of excessive Internet use but only presented a few days of documented use and extrapolated that to substantiate claims that they'd spent four to 10 hours a day online for months.
In Patel's December 14, 2012 official notice of termination to Varnrobinson and Hunter, he wrote that his decision came "after careful review and consideration of the information you provided ... in response to this notice of intent to terminate your employment."
But Patel admitted in testimony at one of the detectives' hearings that he didn't check the accuracy of Hughes' "evidence" against them.
Varnrobinson's attorney asked Patel whether he was aware that Hughes had failed to interview the detectives before submitting a recommendation that they be fired.
Patel admitted, under oath, that when he decided to fire the detectives, he was not aware Hughes had not interviewed them.
Patel also said during the hearing that he was not aware that Varnrobinson and Hunter had the previous chief's permission to look into the homicide case.
And he said, when questioned, that he did not review the reports concerning the alleged excessive Internet use.
"Is it standardized police procedure to conduct interviews with relevant witnesses?" the detective's attorney asked Patel during the September hearing.
"Yes, I would think so," Patel answered.
State law requires that before a police officer is terminated, his agency must provide the officer with a written notice of all allegations of misconduct, the specific nature of the investigation, and summary of discipline taken against other cops of similar rank for similar violations.
After leaving Florence, Patel served a brief stint as interim assistant manager in Pinal County. Although a media outlets have reported that Patel currently is employed there, county officials -- and his LinkedIn page -- note that he left the county in November.
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