Columbia police

Fired Columbia police captain sues city for wrongful termination

nophillips@thestate.comJuly 25, 2013 

— A former Columbia police captain fired earlier this month for insubordination has sued the city for wrongful termination.

David Navarro also has named his former boss, interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago, in the lawsuit for racketeering and violating the corrupt organizations act. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday at the Richland County courthouse.

In the suit, Navarro repeats previous allegations that Santiago asked him to perform “black ops” on assistant city manager Allison Baker by planting a stolen gun and cocaine in his car. The goal was to get Baker fired so that former police Chief Randy Scott could move up to the assistant city manager position and Santiago could be promoted to police chief, the suit and previous allegations said.

Navarro also said in the suit that he was asked July 9 to perform “black ops” on another officer, who previously had been demoted by Scott.

Navarro said he refused to participate in the schemes and claims he was fired in retaliation. Navarro was suspended without pay July 9 and a termination letter was signed July 12 by city manager Teresa Wilson.

Santiago has denied the allegations, and last week filed a defamation lawsuit against Navarro.

Under the racketeering claim, the lawsuit accuses Santiago of being the head of a criminal enterprise where favoritism is shown to officers and members of the public when it comes to enforcing laws and department policies.

The lawsuit alleges Santiago promoted an officer who had violated the department’s special-duty policy while another officer who broke the same rule was demoted.

And, the lawsuit says, Santiago and other unnamed defendants obstructed justice by dismissing charges against prominent members of the community, including traffic tickets written to the leader of a business group and three charges filed July 12 against S.C. NAACP president Lonnie Randolph.

Charges against Randolph have not been dropped, but Santiago has said the department will not pursue a conviction in court.

Under city policy, fired employees may request a hearing before a grievance committee where they can explain their side of any disciplinary actions. The grievance committee then can uphold the decision or recommend the employee be reinstated. The city manager chooses whether to act on the committee’s recommendation.

Navarro has not requested a grievance hearing but intends to do so, his attorney, Glenn Walters, said Thursday.

Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.

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