It seemed like a good fit a year ago when Roya Fouladi accepted a $42,900-a-year job as a civil rights investigator with the City of Tucson's Equal Opportunity Office. But Fouladi had a fit when she was fired a few months later, according to her lawsuit against the city, "in retaliation for having reported what she reasonably believed were illegal actions by ... Sylvia Campoy," the director of the office.
Within weeks of being hired, Fouladi, a licensed attorney in California before she moved to Tucson, was noticing what she considered improper conduct by Campoy. The lawsuit lists several serious charges, including discrimination in providing citizens with complaint forms, discriminatory methods of analyzing the office's jurisdiction concerning complaints, and making arbitrary findings of no cause/no jurisdiction in settling a complaint.
On top of these allegations, the lawsuit also charges that Campoy prohibited her female employees "from speaking to each other, taking lunch breaks together or socializing outside of work on their own personal time." In addition, Fouladi claims she was illegally prohibited from joining the Tucson Association of City Employees labor union.
The lawsuit states that after bringing these issues to the attention of Campoy, Fouladi also took them to city human resource director Jack Redavid and Assistant City Manager Elizabeth Miller. But, the suit claims, they did nothing. Instead, Campoy fired Fouladi in early February for what she alleges was "retaliation for whistle blowing."
Before leaving her job, however, Fouladi met with City Manager James Keene, who is reported to have informed her she wasn't terminated and that an investigation into her allegations would be conducted. But a few days later she was fired again, the reason given that she did "not meet her probationary [employment period] standards," according to the lawsuit. Those standards, however, were apparently never provided to Fouladi.
The former city employee quickly went looking for a lawyer of her own and hired Don Awerkamp. In March he sent letters to Campoy and all the others involved, as well as the Tucson City Council, offering to settle the case.
From Campoy and the council, Awerkamp demanded either Campoy's termination or a large financial settlement. As for most of the others, he asked for an apology or a monetary award.
Naturally, city officials ignored the letters. Thus, in July Awerkamp filed suit seeking compensation for Fouladi's lost income and emotional distress, and punitive damages from the defendants.
Daryl Audilett, the private attorney employed by the city to represent those involved with the case, did not return the Weekly's phone call seeking a comment on the lawsuit.
Fouladi's attorney, Awerkamp, says the discovery process has just begun and estimates it will be five or six months before all depositions are obtained. After that, he expects the defense to move to have the case thrown out. But Awerkamp is confident it will go to trial, probably sometime in 2003.
SOMEONE ELSE WHO objects to the way Sylvia Campoy does her job is local consumer advocate and government gadfly Willy Bils. Known for his often bombastic behavior, numerous lawsuits and long-winded, one-sided approach to conversations, Bils can frequently frustrate even those who agree with him.
The law school graduate has, however, single-handedly kept the issue of the illegal collection of Social Security numbers by local and state governmental agencies in the public spotlight. He was one of the first to push for independent oversight of the Tucson Police Department and has long called for an outside review of the agency. Bils was also a very vocal critic of TPD's handling of the Fourth Avenue riot.
As part of that criticism, in March Bils filed a complaint with Campoy's office over TPD's failure to accommodate access for the handicapped to Fourth Avenue during the Final Four championship festivities. When lodging the complaint, Bils was apparently told he should take it to the Arizona Civil Rights Division and that the city's EEO was dropping the issue. After explaining the handling of the case to Bils, Campoy wrote in an August letter, "Let me make it clear that neither my staff nor I will tolerate any verbal abuse or threats. Some of your previous contacts with this office have subjected me and my staff to such."
Bils eventually fired back a response to Campoy, stating, "Let there be no question that I have consistently found both you and those 'investigators' I encountered in your office to be, in a word, incapable, and that your and their conduct in dealing with me to reflect an unacceptably deficient standard of competence and zealousness." He then added that he hoped Campoy would be removed from her position.
But Bils' primary target of criticism for some time has been Tucson Police Chief Richard Miranda. On September 8, Bils filed a complaint with the police department pointing out that TPD officers were routinely accepting establishment-offered discounted meals at restaurants across town. He had several restaurant managers on audio tape confirming this practice, the acceptance of which is a clear violation of departmental rules.
Those rules state, "Members [of the department] shall not accept directly or indirectly any gift, gratuity, loan, fee, service, or any other thing of value arising from or offered because of police employment or any activity connected with said employment."
On September 10, Bils took the issue to the Tucson City Council and called it "a sleazy practice" that signaled ongoing, widespread corruption within the department. Plus, he said to applause from the audience, "It's time for Chief Miranda to go."
Bils' timing obviously couldn't have been worse, because 12 hours later all police officers in the nation had become instant heroes. Despite that, he continued to press the issue.
During a KOLD Channel 13 interview in early October, Miranda appeared to waffle about how to enforce the department's prohibition on discounted meals. He meekly said it was a delicate balance, but that he would send a letter asking the Chamber of Commerce to notify local restaurants of the policy.
A few days later Bils, a large man with multiple physical ailments, was back before the council, saying the police chief didn't need to listen to restaurant owners. He also suggested that those eating establishments offering discounted meals to the police in violation of the department's policy should simply be placed off-limits to officers.
Earlier in the day, Bils had gone to City Hall to change the address on his voter registration card and to talk about registering as a political action committee called "Consumers Against [Fred] Ronstadt." Bils admits he spoke up while conducting this business, but calls the eventual threats to have him arrested if he wasn't out of the building by 5 p.m. totally inappropriate.
THREE DAYS LATER, BILS was back at City Hall to complete paperwork on the PAC. He also wanted to drop off some additional information about the discounted-meals issue at the Office of the Police Auditor, which is located behind a locked door just off the lobby. When he attempted to do that, however, things got messy.
According to a female employee of the office, when she saw who it was at the door of her ground-floor space, she tried to tell him he had to check in at the security desk and be accompanied by a security guard before she would admit him. But, she insists, Bils "grabbed my door and was trying to force his way into the office," before she pulled his fingers off the door.
This wasn't the first time these two had a conflict. In September, she alleges that while visiting City Hall, "Willy became belligerent and incredibly rude, causing a scene. He was yelling and screaming." As a result, she says, "I fear for my safety if he is allowed to have any further contact with me."
Bils' story is almost the complete opposite. He admits he lost his temper during the September incident, but says he called later to apologize. He also claims that during his October visit he did check in at the City Hall security desk before going to the Office of the Police Auditor. After knocking on the door, he says he was assaulted when the woman inside dug her fingernails into his hand in an attempt to close the door. At that point he called 911.
The outcome of the altercation, however, is not in dispute. Bils was arrested for disorderly conduct and verbally insulted the police officers who handcuffed him. He spent a night in jail before being released. Later, Bils was ordered to stay away from the employee of the Office of the Police Auditor.
To defend himself, Bils points out that there are no signs in the lobby of City Hall indicating what security procedures a visitor is supposed to follow. He also produces a tape recording of most of the October incident, on which he is calm and collected. Taping his conversations has become a Bils trademark, a practice that makes some police officers very nervous of him.
Bils believes the arrest was a set up by a department that is unhappy about what he has said about Miranda and his inability to control his officers. "This arrest," Bils says, "was a sham and a delusion which was obviously staged." Bils also thinks his hitting officers in the pocketbook with his complaints about their discounted meals was also a factor in his treatment.
For now, Bils has basically been banned from City Hall by City Manager James Keene. At the same time, police officers have been told not to accept discounted meals, but if the restaurant insists, they are to make up the difference in the gratuity.
Bils finds that completely unacceptable and intends to keep speaking out about it. "They're attempting to muzzle me but I won't allow it," he says defiantly. "They're punishing me for saying things they don't like." Then, including his girlfriend Erika Louie, he adds, "We're being targeted because we insist upon the full breadth of our civil rights. [Tucson police] are afraid of us because we stand for something they can't stand: freedom.
"I make myself annoying purposefully," Bils claims proudly. "Once I conducted myself nicely and got nowhere" with the issues he was pursuing, so he changed his tactics. But, he says, citing a poem written by a New Jersey trial court judge:
"Statutory attempts to regulate pure bluster
Can't pass what is called constitutional muster;
Use of vulgar words that may cause resentment
Is protected by the First Amendment."