Two former Florence detectives said they were fired for blowing the whistle on a rogue supervisor, and now they're suing the town.
"The town of Florence didn't just come after me, they put a hardship on my entire family," said Walt Hunter. He and Jarris Varnrobinson said they lost their jobs because they called out a lieutenant for botching several cases, even allegedly tampering with evidence.
"I think there's a good ole' boy mentality that totally permeates the town of Florence," Hunter said.
The pair accuse Lt. Terry Tryon of meddling with evidence in a 2007 sexual assault case because his son was allegedly at the scene, as well as a 2008 home invasion case because Tryon allegedly knew the suspect.
"As soon as I make the verbal complaint against Tryon, immediately the retaliation starts," Hunter said.
The detectives were let go in December of 2012. They appealed, and Hunter got his job back. But Varnrobinson didn't; he said they claimed he violated an obscure policy.
"I think it was a race issue," Varnrobinson said. "I was here in Florence for 10 years, and I'm actually quite offended that they turned their back on us."
Both still have their state peace officer certifications. They said they're suing the town and its management to make sure officers are getting due process and cases are properly handled.
"We cannot have honest officers coming forward with problems, and all of a sudden they become the subject of retaliation," Hunter said.
The town of Florence sent us the following statement:
Claims that Mr. Hunter and Mr. Vonzombie [Varnrobinson] were fired for whistleblowing or that there is corruption in the Florence Police Department are unsubstantiated, frivolous and irresponsible.
Mr. Hunter and Mr. Vonzombie were disciplined by the Town of Florence for job performance issues, including multiple violations of the Town's personnel policies, while working in the capacity of detectives in the Florence Police Department. Mr. Hunter and Mr. Vonzombie used improper judgment while working as detectives and they did not meet the standards for detectives set by the Florence Police Department and the law enforcement community that are required to provide sound public safety services to our residents.
When allegations of misconduct were raised by Mr. Vonzombie in 2012, the Town of Florence requested an independent investigation from the Arizona Department of Public Safety. DPS found insufficient evidence to support any claims of wrongdoing in the Florence Police Department.
The Pinal County Attorney's Office has placed Mr. Hunter and Mr. Vonzombie on the Law Enforcement Integrity Database based on their job performance.
An independent hearing officer supported the Town's claims that Mr. Hunter and Mr. Vonzombie acted inappropriately when working as detectives in the Florence Police Department, including violations of multiple provisions of the Town's personnel policies.
The Town of Florence acted aboveboard, professionally and in the best interest of our residents and is confident that the court will agree that this lawsuit is ridiculous and without merit.
Mr. Jess Knudson
Assistant Town Manager
Public Information Officer
Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Saturday, July 26 2014 2:09 PM EDT2014-07-26 18:09:07 GMT
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