In the latest lawsuit against the city of Las Vegas, N.M., a former deputy police chief is claiming in federal court that the city government under Mayor Tonita Gurulé-Girón discriminated against him because of his race and because he publicly voiced his concerns the police department was underfunded.
Ken Jenkins, who worked in the Las Vegas Police Department for nearly 20 years, was deputy chief from December 2017 until January 2019, when he claims he was “illegally forced to retire.”
In his lawsuit, Jenkins says he began noticing budget discrepancies in the department and started reporting the problems to city officials. Because of this, he says, he did not receive overtime pay he’d earned. He alleges someone had falsified his time sheets.
In the spring and summer of 2017, he says, he was “subjected to unwarranted and discriminatory action” for “public criticism of superior officers, the city manager or city officials.” This came after he’d spoken publicly about how underfunding the police department was detrimental to public safety.
When Police Chief Juan Montaño retired at the end of 2017, Jenkins says, he was passed over by the administration for the job of interim chief. This was “because he was African American and/or a whistleblower,” the suit says.
He was passed over again when Jerry Delgado was chosen as chief in May 2018, and again in October 2018 when Delgado resigned following a woman’s social media post accusing him of molesting her when she was a child, he says.
About a month before Delgado resigned, Jenkins filed a charge of discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which in February 2019 issued a determination in his favor.
Gurulé-Girón, who took office in 2016, has been at the center of a series of controversies and lawsuits from former employees and has been in near-constant conflict with city councilors.
Most recently, in late June, her home and office were raided by investigators from the state Attorney General’s Office, who were looking for evidence of bid-rigging. Recently, she thwarted a City Council move to vote on removing her.
Montaño, the former police chief, filed a tort claim against the city, alleging misconduct and a hostile work environment. Last year, the city settled the claim, paying out more than $54,000.