Mesa PD investigates problems with pay, allegations of collusion

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The City Of Mesa is looking into allegations of misconduct and collusion surrounding the work that police officers do off-duty. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The City Of Mesa is looking into allegations of misconduct and collusion surrounding the work that police officers do off-duty. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
3 Valley businesses say some officers are being paid late or not at all for the private security work they're doing in uniform but off duty. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) 3 Valley businesses say some officers are being paid late or not at all for the private security work they're doing in uniform but off duty. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

The City of Mesa is investigating allegations of misconduct and collusion surrounding its police department. The allegations stem from the selection of a vendor that has struggled to pay police officers for off-duty work in uniform.

Three Valley business owners filed a formal complaint with the city last week raising questions about the selection of Extra Duty, LLC. The complaint alleges the owner of Extra Duty, Anthony Rojas, “conspired” with an assistant police chief to secure the contract even though Rojas lacked proper licensing, insurance and financial backing.

Rojas denied the allegations of collusion in a written statement May 3.

“Right now, Mesa officers are being compromised,” said Heather Mulligan of Valley Police Specialists, LLC, one of the three owners who filed the complaint.

The city awarded an exclusive contract to Extra Duty in late December to coordinate all requests from private companies seeking Mesa officers for security or traffic control. These requests are common from malls, banks, event managers and other businesses that want uniformed police officers on premises. Officers pick up these shifts while off-duty from their normal police work.

Previously, the police department handled these requests internally but sought an outside vendor for 2017 to make the process more efficient, said Mesa police spokesperson Sgt. Diana Williams.

It’s been a rocky start. Transitioning the process to Extra Duty took three months longer than originally expected, records show, and a number of officers complained the company did not pay them on time.

A union representing Mesa police officers sent Extra Duty a letter March 23 threatening to “forward this matter to our attorneys” if the company didn’t correct its payroll problems.

“They’ve never done this work before. They didn’t even know they needed a security license,” said another complainant, Bonnie Lucas of Law Enforcement Specialists, Inc.

Sgt. Williams downplayed the early troubles, saying the department had noticed errors by both employees and Extra Duty regarding payroll. 

“This is common and expected when a new system is implemented,” she said. 

Extra Duty began placing officers in March. To date, 311 of the department’s 805 officers, lieutenants and sergeants are registered with the company, she said.

Allegations of "collusion"

Rojas secured the contract with Mesa less than a year after forming Extra Duty, LLC. Records show he co-founded a different security services company, Sofnet, LLC, in 2010 with current Mesa police Lt. Christopher Withrow.

The two men continued to co-own Sofnet when Rojas won the contract with the City of Mesa. Weeks after Rojas began working with the city through Extra Duty, LLC, Withrow filed an expedited request Jan. 25 to restructure Sofnet and remove Rojas’ name from the corporation paperwork. 

Lucas said the connection between Rojas and the lieutenant is not the only reason she suspects the decision to award Rojas the contract was an “inside job.”

“One of the assistant chiefs with Mesa PD had talked to Rojas and told him that he had to bring his [administrative fee] down from $10 an hour to $5.50 if he wanted to get this contract. In addition, that there would be ‘a lot of money to be made,’” she said.

“What does that sound like to you?” I asked.

“Collusion,” she responded.

Williams, the Mesa police spokeswoman, said the city was still reviewing the allegations raised by the business owners. The city attorney has scheduled another meeting on the topic this week, she said.

However, based on their initial findings, “we are confident proper procurement protocols were followed. The Police Department will continue working with the City Attorney's Office to address any additional concerns," she said.

Williams said Lt. Withrow was never involved in the procurement process.

Extra Duty responds

Lucas and Mulligan, who own brokerage companies that connect businesses seeking uniformed personnel with off-duty officers, said they are unable to hire Mesa officers because Extra Duty lacks proper insurance coverage. They provided written opinions from their insurance companies stating that claims submitted for injured officers contracted through Extra Duty would be denied.

In an email, Anthony Rojas of Extra Duty said the company “has met the terms and conditions of our contract with the City of Mesa to include insurance requirements.” He did not comment on questions about whether his company was properly licensed or issues regarding late payments.

“I’ve referred your questions to our attorney,” he wrote.

Rojas did point out that one of the complainants, Bonnie Lucas, competed against his company in the procurement process. The other two complainants, Mulligan of Valley Police Specialists and Pauline Roybal of Right Choice, were not involved.

In a follow-up response May 3, Rojas acknowledged his company changed the amount of its initial bid but pushed back on allegations of collusion.

"Extra Duty reduced its initial bid of $6.24 per hour [to $5.50 per hour] only after receiving updated insurance pricing and after conducting an additional evaluation of historical Mesa Police Off-Duty hours for 2013, 2014, and 2015 provided in Mesa’s Request for Proposal, arriving at the reasonable rate that was ultimately accepted," Rojas wrote.

He said the allegations of collusion were "obviously made in an effort to damage Extra Duty’s reputation and to discourage existing and potential clients."

On the topic of licensing, Rojas argued that Extra Duty does not need a security license because the company merely provides scheduling services, and does not "physically employ security guards or police officers." However, behind the scenes it appears he will be making some changes.

"After a final conversation, we have spoken with Extra Duty, LLC and they are going to be in compliance," Department of Public Safety Public Information Officer Kameron Lee said in an e-mail Wednesday night. Lee would not confirm if that meant Extra Duty was in the process of obtaining a license. 

Rojas' written statement May 3 did not address problems with pay.

“It’s silly,” said Mulligan. “There’s a whole city and I can’t use any of the officers in that city.”

Her husband is a police officer in another Valley department.

“If he couldn’t work any extra duty, that would hurt our income,” she said. “It’s affecting the families directly.”

Editor's Note: This story was updated May 4 to include the written statement from Extra Duty, LLC.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

Derek StaahlDerek Staahl is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and fill-in anchor who loves covering stories that matter most to Arizona families.

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Derek Staahl

This once-uncompromising "California guy" got his first taste of Arizona in 2015 while covering spring training baseball for his former station. The trip spanned just three days, but Derek quickly decided Phoenix should be his next address. He joined CBS 5 and 3TV four months later, in August 2015. Before packing his bags for the Valley of the Sun, Derek spent nearly four years at XETV in San Diego, where he was promoted to Weekend Anchor and Investigative Reporter. Derek chaired the Saturday and Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts, which regularly earned the station's highest ratings for a news program each week. Derek’s investigative reporting efforts into the Mayor Bob Filner scandal in 2013 sparked a "governance crisis" for the city of San Diego and was profiled by the region’s top newspaper. Derek broke into the news business at WKOW-TV in Madison, WI. He wrote, shot, edited, and presented stories during the week, and produced newscasts on the weekends. By the end of his stint, he was promoted to part-time anchor on WKOW’s sister station, WMSN. Derek was born in Los Angeles and was named the “Undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year” in his graduating class at USC. He also played quads in the school’s famous drumline. When not reporting the news, Derek enjoys playing drumset, sand volleyball, and baseball.

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