The Civil Rights Division of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office has determined reasonable cause exists to conclude former Maricopa Police Officer Martice Berry’s termination was racially driven.
The ruling, which came out Wednesday Oct. 20, advises Berry to contact the assistant attorney general assigned to the case to peruse a resolution to the matter.
Berry confirmed he was seeking to settle the matter with the city, and said that if the city did not settle with him by Nov. 10 he would file a claim.
“I am not sure what I want from the city, but to be honest I would be happy with my job back and back pay,” he said.
Berry was fired Aug. 11, 2009 for conduct unbecoming of an officer for allegedly harassing women both on and off duty, sending pictures of male genitalia to various women and kissing and groping a 16-year-old girl.
However, during a city merit board hearing that upheld the termination, Berry claimed he was not guilty of the accusations, and said he was actually terminated in retaliation for filing a Feb. 10, 2009 complaint with the Attorney General’s Office Civil Rights Division alleging employment discrimination. The complaint claimed that Berry was subjected to a hostile work environment and unfair discipline because of his race.
Berry filed a second complaint with the division on Nov. 10, 2009, alleging discrimination because of his race and retaliation for the initial filling. The civil rights division found reasonable cause for this second filling.
Berry contends he did no wrong and that the claims made against him were nothing more than unsubstantiated hearsay. “Two of the people who made these claims against me have since been fired from their jobs for dishonesty,” he said.
“We are surprised by the decision,” said city of Maricopa attorney Denis Fitzgibbons. “We feel the city did everything appropriately in this termination.”
Fitzgibbons said the decision was confusing because it completely contradicted a Sept. 27, 2010 decision made by Administrative Law Judge Diane Mihalsky, during a hearing on Berry’s peace officer certification.
During that hearing, the judge ruled Berry made traffic stops for reasons unrelated to official duties and sexually harassed a woman. These actions were ruled by the judge to be violations of the Arizona Peace Office Standards and Training Board and cause for termination.
Fitzgibbons added that while a claim hasn’t been filed yet, he would not be surprised if the city receives one.