City Hall

Mayor's Aide Joe Villasenor Now on "Indefinite, Unpaid" Leave

Joe Villasenor, a senior assistant to Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, will be placed on "indefinite, unpaid leave" as of this evening, according to his supervisor.

Villasenor was arrested December 15 after his wife told Phoenix Police officers that he'd grabbed her arm and shoved her hard enough to send her face-first onto the floor. Villasenor's wife, Melinda, had visible bruises, according to a police report obtained by New Times.

Villasenor had been on personal leave since the incident, as we reported yesterday. But Bill Scheel, the mayor's senior deputy chief of staff and Villasenor's supervisor, informed us today that the situation has now changed.

"We had a briefing with the police department this morning," Scheel said. "Based on that briefing, the decision was made to place him on unpaid leave indefinitely."

And by "indefinite," Scheel says, he means that Villasenor won't be working for the mayor until any potential criminal charges against him are resolved.

The city prosecutor has handed off the charges to the county attorney's office to avoid a potential conflict of interest. Domestic violence assault charges are typically handled as misdemeanors.

The Villasenors have been married 18 years, although Melinda Villasenor told police they are "working on a separation."

The argument that sparked Villasenor's arrest began December 12 when Joe Villasenor wanted his wife to drive from his sister's home in north-central Phoenix to 99th Avenue and Camelback because "he was drunk," according to the police report. When she refused, another friend picked him up and brought him to his sister's house. That's where the fight began.

But Villasenor's alleged drunkenness didn't stop him from driving later in the evening. After the altercation with his wife, he allegedly "ran out of the house, got into his vehicle and drove off," according to the police report.

He was arrested three days later.

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Sarah Fenske
Contact: Sarah Fenske