The Arizona Department of Public Safety has advised Payson Police Chief Gordon Gartner that Jim Oestmann, a DPS officer assigned to the Gila County Narcotics Task Force, has been reprimanded for actions that led to compromising a search warrant in a drug manufacturing case.
The letter came from DPS Director Col. Dennis Garrett, dated April 24.
Garrett said "... Oestmann was not acting in a manner consistent with our department policies and procedures ... (and) has received a written letter of reprimand, for his conduct in this incident ... We regret any inconvenience this incident may have caused you and appreciate your bringing this matter to our attention ...."
The incident in question occurred in the fall of 2002. Gartner and his officers investigated allegations that Oestmann and his fellow task force officer, Ken Wortman, intentionally or accidentally leaked information to a confidential informant that his residence was going to be served with a search warrant.
"Director Garrett is a well known and well respected law enforcement agency head. He is the retired chief of police for Phoenix. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and support his decision," Gartner said.
Town Manager Fred Carpenter said he could not really make a comment on the findings, except to say, "We've asked for the full report."
The police investigation was reviewed by personnel from the Gilbert Police Department, the Gila County Sheriff's Department, as well as the DPS, which all conducted their own investigations.
The Gilbert PD found no cause to pursue action against the task force officers because it could not be determined if the alleged leak was accidental or intentional.
The sheriff's investigation found the police at fault, according to Chief Deputy Sheriff Bill Fogle.
The report on the incident from the sheriff's department led Payson Town Councilor Robert Henley to recently call for an outside audit of the police department.
"I've met Officer Oestmann and I believe he is an excellent career DPS officer," Mayor Ken Murphy said. "I believe there were mistakes made by everyone involved in this situation from what I've read in the reports. I believe the situation would not have happened at all had the PPD been a member of the Gila County Narcotics Task Force. It elucidates the problem with multiple agencies working potentially the same cases outside the town limits when there is a task force established to enforce the drug laws in northern Gila County."
At the end of March, Wortman and Oestmann, along with their wives, filed a claim against the town and its police department. The claim seeks $100,000 in damages for both Wortman and Oestmann, plus attorney's fees. They are represented by attorney Harlan Green who was not available to comment on the DPS findings.