Katz allegedly accepted free food – a violation of city personnel rules – from Mario's Pizzeria & Ristorante.
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
It looks like a free pizza might have done in Albuquerque Aviation Police Chief Marshall Katz.
Katz, who is serving a 40-day unpaid suspension, was disciplined for allegedly accepting free food from a local pizza joint and sending Aviation police off the airport’s grounds to take at least one police report from the restaurant, according to a summary of the city’s allegations against Katz obtained by ABQ Free Press.
Katz allegedly accepted free food – a violation of city personnel rules – from Mario’s Pizzeria & Ristorante, which has three locations in the city. It’s not clear how much food Katz allegedly accepted or how often he sent airport police off premises to regular police calls. His attorney, John D’Amato, said the allegations against his client “stink to high heaven.”
While city officials have told media outlets that the allegations against Katz concerned bribery, gifts and donations, they did not explain exactly what the allegations were. According to the document obtained by the Free Press, “Mr. Katz admitted to accepting free food from an establishment that he sent Aviation Officers to so that police reports could be filed that APD was unable to handle.”
The document, a summary of charges and Katz’s lawyer’s response to them, continued: “This relationship may allow for the appearance of an exchange of services between the City of Albuquerque and Mario’s Pizza and also raises the question regarding whether or not funds were diverted from their original intent.”
The document also said, “Mr. D’Amato stated that bribery is a strong word and that the investigation does not reveal that Mr. Katz engaged in any acts of bribery or obtained anything of value with an expectation of a quid pro quo. However, Mr. D’Amato did state that if a gift of lunch from Mario’s Pizza qualifies, then a violation of this section [Bribery, Gifts, Donations] of the City of Albuquerque Personnel Rules & Regulations occurred. Mr. D’Amato pointed out that many restaurants give officers free food and the City of Albuquerque does not have a policy of prohibiting free food.”
Katz joined the Albuquerque Police Department in January 1979. He has headed the Aviation Police for the past 13 years. He is appealing his suspension to the city’s Personnel Board.
A source familiar with Katz’s suspension told ABQ Free Press that he has sent Aviation police to take regular police calls about six or seven times in his 13 years as chief. The city’s document did not shed light on the number of instances that Katz might have sent his cops off premises.
“If Mr. Katz used Aviation Officers to respond to APD calls for services that were not related to Airport activities, the issue of whether or not funds were spent inappropriately may come into question,” the document said.
Aviation police are fully certified law enforcement officers, just like APD officers.
D’Amato said Katz could go before a city Personnel Board hearing officer in January. “That’s when the evidence will come forward. The silliness of it will come out in the evidence and the witnesses. All of this could have easily been handled with a verbal warning or written reprimand,” D’Amato said.
The city’s document also said that “D’Amato admitted a violation of getting free food from the pizzeria but that the practice stopped immediately after the investigation was complete.”
Katz was also alleged to have violated rules that prohibit employees from using city property for personal gain or profit. “There was not sufficient evidence to substantiate that Mr. Katz violated this section of the City of Albuquerque Personnel Rules & Regulations,” the document said.
Dennis Domrzalski is an assciate editor at ABQ Free Press. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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