City releases phone conversation between Interim Chief Santiago and former captain

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A secretly recorded phone conversation between Interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago and former Capt. David Navarro was released by the city late Wednesday.

In the recording, Navarro and Santiago talk about office politics and their personal concerns for a former police chief, who both men say has a "drinking problem" that only "a few people" know about.

Navarro tells Santiago that the purpose of his phone call to assuage fears that he's the one telling city officials about the rumors surrounding Scott's sudden "indefinite" leave of absence that eventually turned into him leaving the department due to PTSD concerns.

The conversation quickly evolves from Scott's issues to Navarro's transfer to the West Region.

Navarro repeatedly tells Santiago he is game for the move despite what the interim chief heard about the former captain "kicking and screaming" when he learned of the change.

Santiago: "You're upset becauseā€¦"

Navarro: "I'm not upset."

Santiago: "You're hurt about being moved. If he [Former Chief Randy Scott] wants it done -- and I concur -- I don't see designing a whole. But the real, real issue is that you don't want to leave this position. You're sentimental to this position."

Navarro: "You and chief both already told me, this eventually was going to happen anyway for whatever reason, whether it was a promotion or because you guys want me to go get experience and I don't have a problem with that, I'm going to do well wherever I go and you know that."

Santiago: "Why are you making it feel like it's a bad thing?"

Navarro: "I didn't say it was a bad thing, I said it was handled unprofessionally, I thought. That's my opinion. I would have never would have done that to you, I would have -- never would have -- done that to Randy, not being part of the A Team, not being part of the Dream Team."

The city delivered the recording one day after SLED and Thirteenth Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins said evidence doesn't support the allegations Santiago devised a plan to plant a stolen gun and cocaine in a city official's car, which would then set off a series of events resulting in a change in leadership within the city manager's office and inside the police department.

Since mid-December, Wilkins has been going over SLED and FBI reports handed to him by Fifth Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson, who claimed a conflict of interest because of his personal and professional relationships with many of the figures named in the investigations.

During the investigation, Wilkins said the scope of the probe had to be broadened when it became apparent that some of the players involved may not have been forthright.

In September 2013, the City of Columbia answered a racketeering lawsuit filed by Navarro. Navarro filed the suit in July, weeks after Santiago fired him.

In court filings, the city denied Navarro's allegations Santiago ordered "black ops" hits against the city's second-in-charge and a fellow police officer.

The supposed "black ops" scheme was never mentioned in the undated telephone conversation.

In this recording, you can hear Santiago describing a promotion plan -- a plan Navarro says was the end game of that "black ops" plot.

Santiago: "You know all of my plans that I've been doing to try to get him promoted -- Randy."

Navarro: "I understand all that."

Santiago: "When he gets promoted, then we all move up. This is just -- when he mentioned that you needed to move, then I said you know what? We've been we've been talking about it for a few months anyway."

Navarro said he was removed from his job shortly after reporting his allegations to the State Law Enforcement Division and the department's Internal Affairs.

City Manager Teresa Wilson fired Navarro in July for "secretly recording" a conversation, "insubordination to supervisor" and "criticism and malicious gossip."

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