CPD recordings reveal promotion trigger described in 'black ops' - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

CPD recordings reveal promotion trigger described in 'black ops' allegation

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The City of Columbia released two secretly recorded conversations between Interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago and his former captain, Dave Navarro. It took a Freedom of Information Act request to get the recordings, which the city initially denied having.

The recordings came to us on two separate discs. The first disc is a recorded phone call between Navarro and Santiago on January 11, 2013. The second recording is a meeting between Santiago, Navarro and former CPD crime analyst, Bridget Caffery. The second recording was recorded in Santiago's office inside CPD and it is undated.

The city released the recordings in a phone call to WIS at around 5 p.m. Wednesday evening. The city initially denied a July 16, 2013 FOIA request for us to listen to the undated recording between Navarro and Santiago. The city claimed the recordings were with the State Law Enforcement Division and exempt from disclosure. In a follow up request to the city on Feb. 17, 2014 the city denied having any recordings related to the "Black Ops" investigation, but still claimed the recordings we asked for were exempt.


For months, the city held onto the two recordings—which are public record—and refused to turn them over. The recordings are part of the SLED investigative file on the Black Ops case. When the city turned the recordings over to us, the city did not include any context for the recordings or how the city ended up with the recordings.

The alleged "Black Ops" plan was made public after the city suspended Navarro in July 2013. Navarro told WIS the plan was presented to him three separate times by Interim Chief Ruben Santiago in the months leading up to July 2013. Navarro said Santiago wanted help planting a gun and drugs inside Assistant City Manager Allison Baker's car. Navarro said he thought Santiago was "just joking" about the plan until the third time the interim chief described how to pull it off. "There was no doubt in my mind that he meant what he was planning to do," Navarro told WIS in July. "He meant it and he was going to carry it through if he found the right person to do it with, but Dave Navarro was not going to be the person to do that for him."

Santiago denied the allegations in July 2013 and again in a court filing related to the racketeering lawsuit Navarro filed against the city in August 2013. The SLED report on the alleged "Black Ops" plan released Tuesday led special prosecutor Walt Wilkins to find "insufficient evidence" to charge Santiago with any crimes associated with Navarro's allegations.

The reason for the "Black Ops" plan, according to Navarro, was to get Baker fired and Scott would be hired to replace Baker as the city's director of public safety. That would open the chief of police slot for Santiago, and Navarro said he was promised CPD's second-in-charge position.

In the conversation recorded inside Santiago's office in January 2013, both men are discussing a promotion process that Navarro said was the "end game" for the "Black Ops" plan:

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."

A large part of the taped conversation dealt with personal problems plaguing then-Chief Randy Scott, and Navarro being reassigned to the city's West Region. Navarro was not happy about the reassignment, but the recording shows Santiago pointing out the positives of the move to Navarro:

SANTIAGO: "In my mind, what I'm thinking is Dave can go there--it's laid back. We can really start really making this [expletive] happen; behind the scene [expletive] that we really want happen--make it happen."

The recording does not contain any dialogue where the men detail Santiago's references to "make it happen" and "behind the scenes."

In the recording, Santiago mentions Navarro working in headquarters is taking up too much of Navarro's time and keeping the Captain busy. Santiago notes he can't even leave a message on Navarro's phone because the voicemail is constantly filled up. Putting Navarro in the Harbison area of the city, Santiago argued, frees Navarro up for other duties: "I don't have access to you like I need to and if you're going to be my number 2--my number 1, then [expletive], I need you to be included."

SANTIAGO: "There is no sound solution to make everyone happy on this, but at least you went to West Region--because we don't have a timetable on this."

The conversation over the promotion trigger, according to Navarro, was the men discussing what would happen if they pulled off the "Black Ops" plan.

SLED spokesman Thom Berry told WIS that the entire case file should be ready for public release next week. As soon as the agency releases it to us under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act, we'll post it online and detail the contents in upcoming reports.

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