The year ended with new leaders in the city’s police and fire departments after a retirement, hiring, resignation and promotion.
Chief Brady Leffler, who had led the Maricopa Fire and Medical Department since 2013, retired in March. He had been hired to overhaul a department.
Brad Pitassi, the department’s assistant fire chief of operations, was named interim chief and then promoted to chief in mid-September.
As operations assistant chief, Pitassi’s responsibilities included overseeing the department’s day-to-day operations, risk and hazard emergency preparedness, personnel, long-term operational strategic planning and budget.
New public safety chief
A week before Pitassi was appointed fire chief, the city hired a new deputy city manager/chief public-safety officer as part of a reorganization of public safety administration.
Micah Gaudet, 31, was brought on to oversee police, fire and emergency management “to align public safety with the city mission to unlock its full potential to create a thriving and durable community, as well as enabling public safety to achieve the strategic objective of ensuring a safe and secure community,” the city said in a release.
The youngest municipal manager in the state, he led Miami, Ariz., a town of about 1,500 residents east of Phoenix, through the huge Telegraph Fire and historic post-fire flooding in June 2021.
Gaudet has degrees in economics and public management, and a certificate in municipal finance. A U.S. Army veteran and decorated combat-zone veteran, he served two tours in Afghanistan.
Gaudet’s appointment came in the wake of police Chief James Hughes’ surprise resignation.
Hughes, a 36-year law enforcement veteran, had led MPD for just 21 months. His last day on the job was Sept. 15, a week after the City announced Gaudet’s hiring.
Hughes joined the department in 2012 as a commander overseeing operations. He replaced Chief Steve Stahl in January 2021, just six weeks after Stahl announced his unexpected retirement.
In an interview with InMaricopa just before his last day at MPD, Hughes acknowledged the city’s growth had changed its complexion and the nuances of policing. He said it had become apparent the job was not the best fit for him. But his law enforcement career is “probably not” over, he added.
In December, the City announced it had hired a new police chief after a national search.
Mark Goodman, a commander with the Pasadena Police Department in California, will start on Jan. 23. He has been with the department in the Los Angeles suburbs since 1994, working his way up the ranks.
Cop’s firing upheld
In other police staffing news, the firing of a Maricopa police officer was upheld after an appeal hearing in July.
Officer Craig Curry, a 14-year MPD veteran and K-9 handler since 2013, was terminated by the department earlier in the year. After two days of testimony, including from Curry, a hearing officer upheld the department’s decision. City Manager Rick Horst then affirmed the hearing officer’s decision.
According to the city, Curry was the subject of 19 citizen complaints or internal investigations for incidents between September 2013 to November 2021. They included 10 use-of-force complaints; two vehicle collisions, including disciplinary action for backing his patrol vehicle into a parked fire truck; and three internal investigations.
One of those internal investigations revolved around the June 2020 incident that led to the death of his K-9 partner, Ike, a 9-year-old Dutch Shepherd who was left in an enclosed patrol vehicle for 103 minutes on a 108-degree day. The animal was humanely euthanized after suffering heatstroke.
Department investigators concluded Curry violated three code-of-conduct policies in the incident, and he served a 20-hour, unpaid disciplinary suspension.
The incident was also investigated by the Arizona Department of Public Safety and reviewed by the Pinal County Attorney’s Office, which declined criminal prosecution of Curry.