In front of a packed courtroom Monday, Judge Randolph Bartlett allowed a hearing on the Quartzsite police officer firings to continue, despite a motion from an attorney for the Town of Quartzsite questioning the legality of the proceedings.
The hearing followed a temporary restraining order issued by Bartlett in recent weeks which ordered the town to reinstate two police officers who were fired following 10 out of 13 police officers being placed on paid administrative leave. The officers had submitted allegations against their police chief Jeff Gilbert.
The Town of Quartzsite argued in court that agreements between employees and employers cannot be the subject of intervention by the court. Bartlett allowed the hearing to proceed.
An attorney representing the police officers called Police Chief Gilbert to the stand. The town’s attorney responded by saying that he was not present in the courtroom, which drew an audible response from the 60+ crowd sitting and standing in the courtroom. The officers’ attorney then called Quartzsite Councilman Joe Winslow, who was also not present.
Since none of the defendants were present, the attorney called a plaintiff, Sergeant William Ponce, to the stand. Ponce testified that he and 9 other officers had made allegations of an ethical nature about Chief Gilbert, and that he had subsequently been fired.
After over 20 minutes of testimony, the attorney for the Town of Quartzsite asked to approach the bench. After the attorneys’ sidebar with the judge, Bartlett announced that the town was exercising its right to move the case to federal court.
The court ordered that the papers be submitted within 10 days, and that the temporary restraining order would remain in place during that time.