Judge vacates arbitration decision on police officer involved in probe
BY JARREL WADE World Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
2/06/13 at 8:47 AM
Read the ruling: See the judge’s rationale for vacating the arbitration outcome.
A judge has vacated an arbitration decision that would have forced the city to rehire a former police officer who was part of an FBI investigation into law enforcement and an alleged drug ring.
Records filed in Tulsa County District Court reveal that the multiyear FBI investigation involved several Tulsa police officers and their alleged involvement with a drug ring. The ring trafficked drugs through Hispanic-owned night clubs in Tulsa, specifically clubs owned by Arnulfo "Arnie" Murillo, records show.
Murillo has not been charged in connection with the investigation, according to court records.
The FBI investigation, which began as early as September 2007, was inconclusive in its findings regarding former Tulsa Police Officer Kendra Miller and apparently resulted in no charges against any other officers suspected of involvement, according to court records.
Tulsa County District Judge Mary Fitzgerald's ruling Friday apparently frees the city to keep Miller off the police force because it vacated an arbitrator's decision last year.
Miller's attorney, Scott Wood, said Tuesday he plans to appeal Fitzgerald's decision.
In Fitzgerald's opinion, filed in Tulsa County District Court Tuesday, she says the arbitrator failed to rule on the "sole issue" he was to resolve, which was whether Miller was terminated for "just cause."
Fitzgerald's opinion said the arbitrator found just cause for two of the city's seven stated reasons for termination and therefore could not overturn the termination.
"Only if there was not 'just cause' was the arbitrator to fashion a remedy," Fitzgerald wrote.
Former Police Chief Ron Palmer fired Miller in December 2009 for seven policy and rule violations related to an Internal Affairs and FBI investigation. The investigations alleged Miller was in a sexual relationship with a suspected criminal and tipped off suspected criminals about police bar checks, according to court documents.
Miller filed a grievance over her firing in 2009. That grievance led to arguments before the arbitrator, as called for by Tulsa's contract with the Fraternal Order of Police, Tulsa's police union.
According to the contract, all decisions made through arbitration are binding and cannot be overturned in court.
After several days of arguments in the case in September 2011, the arbitrator decided last July to reverse Miller's firing, saying any provable misconduct for which she was fired should have resulted in only a 30-day suspension with no back pay.
According to court documents, Miller admitted during an internal affairs investigation to having a relationship with the man but denied their relationship was sexual or that she gave him any information related to investigations.
Cellphone texts between Miller and Eric Benjamin Lujan-Juarez, also known as Julio Lujan, contained messages from Miller to Lujan that include "Love you" and "Miss you," according to a transcript of testimony in Miller's arbitration hearing filed in Tulsa County District Court.
Lujan was a manager at Club Imperio, 9379 E. 46th St., which was owned by Murillo. The club is now called "Haze" and is partially owned by Murillo, records show.
Club Imperio was the target of a 2011 multiagency drug bust that was part of a three-year FBI investigation, according to court documents.
Sgt. Gary Meek, with Tulsa Police Department's Internal Affairs Division, testified in Miller's arbitration case about the investigation that included Lujan and Miller's relationship.
Meek testified that members of the department's Special Investigations Division placed Miller under surveillance.
"They follow her to his residence ... and observed her stay there for I think about an hour - or see her get out of the vehicle and go inside, and then they see her come back out about an hour later," Meek testified.
He testified that police records showed she was on duty at the time - a little after 3 a.m. - and that dispatchers thought she was answering a call at a different location.
Records filed in Tulsa federal court show that Lujan was charged by a grand jury with unlawfully carrying a firearm in 2008.
Lujan pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 months in prison with a three-year term of supervised release, during which Lujan, an illegal immigrant, was to remain outside the United States, according to federal court documents.
Meek also testified that Miller searched the Police Department's internal crime reporting database for Lujan 24 times in 2006, 33 times in 2007 and 11 times in 2008. She searched for Murillo four times in 2006 and 16 times in 2007, Meek testified.
He said Miller, when asked about the searches, said she was just checking for traffic violations and warrants on the men and denied ever having shared information with Lujan.
An FBI sting on Miller, which the FBI called "inconclusive," involved putting a recording device in Miller's car to hear what she did with sensitive information involving Club Imperio.
At a police briefing, several officers, including Miller, were told about a surprise bar check at Club Imperio, according to Meek's testimony.
Miller was then recorded in her car calling someone the FBI determined to be Leo Sanchez, a man who ran security at Club Imperio, according to court records.
She was recorded saying, "Hey, what's going on? ... We're on our way. I wanted to let you know, but don't let anyone else know. ... We'll be there in a little bit, but don't let anyone else know. ... One of the undercover groups called me. It's not what I thought it was going to be, so it's not any big deal."
Miller said Sanchez was part of a volunteer program with the Tulsa Police Department and was out that night at a bachelor party with several Tulsa police officers.
She was invited and was just letting Sanchez know because her invitation was supposed to be a surprise, she said.
The FBI ruled the undercover operation and several other similar investigations "inconclusive," according to court documents.
Original Print Headline: Judge vacates Miller ruling
Jarrel Wade 918-581-8367
ry Fitzgerald: Says the arbitrator failed to rule on the "sole issue" he was to resolve - whether Miller was terminated for "just cause."