In federal filing, city again denies former police captain's "Black Ops" allegations

Dave Navarro
Dave Navarro
Interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago
Interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The City of Columbia has answered a racketeering lawsuit filed by former police captain Dave Navarro in July.

The city has again denied Navarro's allegations that interim chief Ruben Santiago ordered "Black Ops" hits against the city's second-in-charge and a fellow police officer.

In July, WIS got a call from Navarro telling us his boss wanted him to help set up Assistant City Manager Alison Baker.

"I called her [City Manager Teresa Wilson] on the phone and I was able to talk to her," said Navarro during an interview with WIS in July. "I gave her specifics, that Interim Chief Ruben Santiago was planning to put a gun, a stolen gun, and cocaine in Mr. Baker, one of the assistant city manager's, Allison Baker's car. He was planning to put this in his car, himself."

Just days before we got the call from Navarro, Santiago had suspended the former captain; one day after Navarro called SLED and reported what he called a plot to set Baker up to get him fired.

Santiago and the city denied Navarro's allegations then, and in an answer to Navarro's lawsuit, which was filed in federal court, the city denied those claims again.

The city says Navarro's firing was justified, saying he'd been insubordinate in a reassignment, secretly recorded a phone conversation with Santiago, and that Navarro was gossiping.

The city says it had grounds to fire Navarro even before the allegations because of an alleged recording Navarro made, which would be a violation of city policy.

The city also says Navarro failed to report illegal or unethical conduct to the city, which officials say was another reason to fire him.

Santiago admitted he knew about the Navarro recording weeks before Navarro came forward but the city has not provided any evidence that Santiago reported the recording to the city, as policy would require.

"I actually confronted him [Navarro] about the recording," said Santiago in July. Reporter: "When did you confront him?" Santiago: "I learned about it a few weeks ago. Several weeks ago. Less than three weeks ago and I asked him, I said it bothers me that you would try to do something like that and I didn't get to hear the recording until a week later. But I confronted him and I said I know you recorded me. I was told you recorded me and he admitted he recorded me. Which I can only speculate as to why he would try to do that, maybe to convince somebody that his agenda was more important and he needed to stay."

The city's response also contains a list of witnesses they plan to call: City Manager Teresa Wilson, Assistant City Manager Allison Baker, the city's HR head Pamela Benjamin, Ruben Santiago and deputy chief Les Wiser.

Also included in the response is a line that says Ruben Santiago, "vigorously denies the allegations."

There is no trial date set for the lawsuit. Both sides will now start collecting evidence from the other, a process that could take several more months.

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