Lawsuit: Police academy instructors punished after whistleblowing

Posted at: 04/08/2014 10:11 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Only KOB Eyewitness News 4 has learned former instructors at New Mexico's law enforcement academy say they were ostracized -- three of them fired -- after reporting superiors for illegal activity and for refusing to encourage cadets to cheat.

Those men are suing some of the biggest names in New Mexico criminal justice for whistle-blower retaliation.

KOB reporter Caleb James is the only reporter with a copy of the lawsuit Tuesday.

"Somebody's going to have to answer for this," said the plaintiffs' attorney Joe CampBell on Tuesday. 

The defendants include current APD chief Gorden Eden and LEA director Jack Jones.   

All four plaintiffs have extensive law enforcement experience outside New Mexico -- they were brought in to make the academy better.

But when they started asking questions and making changes they say they got into trouble.

Now they're fighting back.

"When you have a 20 year veteran with a sparkling, clear, not a blemish on his resume -- and then you get hit with this, because someone is trying to cover their ass, that's wrong," said Campbell.

Campbell represents four men with similar stories.

Their names are George Puga, Anthony Maxwell, Earl Voiles and a name that may sound familiar to KOB viewers -- Phil Gallegos.  

"They were told they needed to teach the test," said CampBell. "From the very beginning, my clients said, 'We can't do that.'"

KOB first told New Mexicans about Gallegos in March. The former high ranking LEA instructor had written this memo to academy director Jack Jones more than a year ago -- it shows Gallegos refused to follow Jones's instructions to teach test questions to cadets.

"Those cadets did the right thing also," said Campbell.

An anonymous letter with similar allegations was signed by unnamed cadets from LEA class #185 in April 2013.

Gallegos and his fellow instructors tried to do something.

"They made the ultimate recommendation that the law enforcement academy be shut down, revamped from the beginning, so you'd miss a class," said CampBell.

But Campbell says that cost Gallegos his job.

In January 2013 Gallegos says Jones ordered him to teach test questions.

On February 11 of that year, Gallegos refused the order in writing.

On February 13, he refused an order to rescind his letter of dissention.

Three days later he was told by his superiors he wasn't, "working out" as the academy's basic bureau chief. Gallegos was terminated soon after.

"Gorden Eden was involved in all of this through the process, and that came down -- this wasn't just Jack Jones doing," said Campbell.

Gallegos and his former colleagues say orders to teach exam questions to cadets came from the very top -- from former DPS secretary now Albuquerque police chief Gorden Eden.

Both Eden and Jones are mentioned in the lawsuits.

"I find it curious that the investigation and the allegations of my clients were not taken into the account or come to light during his vetting process to become chief of police of Albuquerque," said Campbell.

Both DPS and Eden have indicated to KOB they will not comment on an on-going legal matter.

Current DPS secretary Greg Fouratt sent KOB this statement:

"Neither the Secretary nor the Chief Legal Counsel of DPS nor the Director of the NM Law Enforcement Academy has seen a copy of the lawsuit.  Nonetheless, the department intends to vigorously defend against the allegations and believes them to be entirely without legal merit."

APD spokeswoman Tasia Martinez on Tuesday responded to a request for comment, "(Eden) cannot comment on any pending lawsuit."