Santiago says CPD tapes show men trying to advance careers - - Columbia, South Carolina

Santiago says CPD tapes show men trying to advance careers


Days after the City of Columbia released two recordings as part of the black ops investigation, the attorney for the man who accused the Interim Columbia Police chief said the tapes prove the allegations. But interim chief Ruben Santiago says the tapes are nothing but conversations of men trying to advance their careers.

The State Law Enforcement Division and the FBI investigated the allegations and last week announced there was not evidence to charge Santiago.

Civil rights attorney Glenn Walters, who represents former Columbia Police Capt. Dave Navarro says there "is no other explanation" for the promotion process you hear Interim Chief Ruben Santiago discussing on the recordings other than the end game for the black ops plan Navarro disclosed in July 2013. The plan was discussed in an hour and 35 minute-long recording city records show was produced in January 2013. The conversation was recorded by a city employee inside of Santiago's office and is a conversation between Santiago and Navarro.

The promotion plan, according to Navarro's black ops allegations, was to get Assistant City Manager Allison Baker fired and have former Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott move into Baker's job. That would, according to Navarro, move Santiago into the chief's job and Navarro was promised the second-in-charge position at CPD. 

"What we have here is a subordinate that's going to promote his boss and in this particular case, there's only one position that's available for Randy Scott," Walters said. "The position that they were going to promote him to was to be a deputy commissioner for the police department and that position was held by Allison Baker; that's the only place Scott could be promoted."

Santiago is heard in the recording telling Navarro, "You know all of my plans that I've been doing to try to get him promoted -- Randy."

"I understand all that," Navarro responds.

"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," Santiago continued.

A few minutes later in the same recording, Santiago tells Navarro, "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."

"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," Santiago continued.

"Now, what plans?" Walters asked in his statement. "Navarro told you in his complaint: the black ops plans to get Allison Baker removed. I remind you, Chief Santiago is not the Human Resource person for the City of Columbia Police Department. The only promotion for Chief Scott was the position held by Allison Baker, the target of Mr. Santiago's illegal black ops scheme. I want the citizens of Columbia to ask Mr. Santiago, the City Manager, and the City of Columbia leaders: what were Mr. Santiago's plans to get his boss promoted," Walters's statement continued.

On July 14, 2013 Navarro spoke days after the city suspended him without pay as some sort of investigation was launched into Navarro. The former captain was suspended the day after he went to SLED and reported the black ops allegations, then fired the day we aired Navarro's allegations.

Navarro said he was approached on three separate occasions by Santiago about a plan to plant a stolen gun and cocaine in Assistant City Manager Allison Baker's car. Baker would be fired, Scott would take Baker's job, Santiago would become chief, and Navarro would become second-in-charge at CPD, according to Navarro's sworn affidavit. Navarro said he thought the "black ops" plan was a joke at first, but said after Santiago told him about it a third time over lunch in July, he decided to report it to SLED.

Santiago had denied Navarro's allegations since we first reported them in July 2013. He said the tapes show nothing more than a group of men, planning to honestly advance their careers.

 "There's only one conclusion that can be drawn from those tapes: number one, Santiago had a plan. Number two, it was a plan to promote Randy Scott," Walters says. "It appears Scott panicked in the middle of this and somehow he came down with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from an event that came eight years ago."

Walters says the only place for Chief Scott to go would be into City Hall as the director of public safety.  That's a position Baker has held since 2010 when Mike King left the city.   

Santiago admitted he and Scott were gunning for Baker's job, but it was only because Baker could have been promoted to city manager. That didn't happen. The city hired Teresa Wilson for the job.

Even still, Santiago says, there was no black ops plan to take Baker out.

"Like most people do in any professional setting, think about what would be the possible opportunities for upward mobility and so, we were a tight knit group at that time, we're doing some great things at CPD--Randy Scott was a very popular and if he could be an assistant city manager for public safety, then that would have really enhanced the whole program within itself," he says.

City records show the recording where Santiago's discussing those promotions was made on January 11, 2013, three days after the city gave Wilson the city manager's job.

When asked if  the black ops promotion Santiago was talking about was not a black ops end game it was specifically about how do we get Randy Scott into city hall, Santiago responded, "That's right."

Navarro's team says there's no way Santiago's story is true because the positions were already filled days before the recording was made.  Walters says, he believes Santiago was planning to do whatever it took to get Baker out of the way to carry out the black ops plan.

"It raises some interesting questions about the plan, the promotion and what behind the scenes activity that chief Santiago wanted to engage in, under the circumstances," Waters says. "But it's all come to light now."

Santiago says he maintains his innocence in this case and says the recordings are not as they appear.

The full SLED report into this investigation is expected to be released this week.

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