Takoma Park officer files petition to dismiss discliplinary action -- Gazette.Net


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Samuel Villegas, a Takoma Park police officer who was told several times to get a Maryland driver’s license and vehicle registration, wants the city police department’s disciplinary actions taken against him dismissed.

Villegas and United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 400 — which represents police officers — filed a petition with the Montgomery County Circuit Court on Jan. 23 that would require city police Chief Alan Goldberg, the city police department and the city to explain in court why Villegas’ requests should not be granted.

Former city Police Chief Ronald Ricucci disciplined Villegas in July with five administrative charges and the removal of his police credentials, according to court documents.

“The charges arose out of the fact that Officer Villegas resided in Maryland but had a Virginia driver’s license and vehicle registration,” the documents say.

James Shalleck, an attorney for the petitioners, said he could not comment on why Villegas did not change his license and registration because that was part of the petitioners’ evidence that could be used in court.

Villegas was not given an administrative hearing before he was disciplined and was interrogated twice on Feb. 7, 2012, without receiving proper notice, the documents say. The lack of a hearing violates the state’s Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, which protects police officers facing an investigation or hearing, Villegas claims.

Goldberg — who became police chief in October — said that because the petition is based on a personnel issue, he could not discuss it in detail.

He did say, however, that the issue could have been resolved by now and that such a petition is “not unexpected.”

City Attorney Susan Silber said she could not comment because the petition relates to a personnel matter.

As an alternative to the dismissal of the disciplinary actions, Villegas and the union would want statements Villegas made during the interrogations to be suppressed so they would not appear in the administrative hearing, Shalleck said.

Villegas’ pay status also was changed from leave with pay to leave without pay, which is in violation of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights because Villegas has not been charged with a crime, according to the documents.

Following the charges, Villegas was fired in July “a very short time” after he requested a hearing, Shalleck said.

He was reinstated about a month later and placed on administrative leave with pay, the documents say.

Shalleck said he could not comment on why Villegas was reinstated.

A hearing was scheduled to begin on Nov. 29, the documents continue, but Villegas asked that it be rescheduled due to a medical issue.

The city later changed his pay status to leave without pay.

“The change to a leave without pay was made only because of your repeated requests for and continued postponement of the hearing date,” said a Dec. 24 email sent from Alexis Blackwell, Takoma Park’s director of human resources, to Villegas, which was included in the court documents as an exhibit.

A court date tentatively has been scheduled for March 6, Shalleck said.

lpowers@gazette.net