Melissa Summerson, a long-time employee of Kingman, Arizona who was fired three days after Christmas in 2012 because her husband belonged to the Desert Road Riders Motorcycle Club filed a federal civil rights suit against the city last week alleging that she was wrongly terminated.
The 16-page suit presents a compelling description of a loony witch hunt instigated by Arizona’s new Gestapo, the Gang And Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission State Gang Task Force. This new Gestapo prefers to be known by the ridiculous acronym “GIITEM” – which is supposed to be pronounced “Git ‘em.”
GIITEM rolled into Kingman after an overblown fist fight between members of the Hells Angels and Vagos in June 2009 and encouraged local police to harass every motorcyclist they saw including members of the Patriot Guard Riders and HOG. Summerson may be the most innocent victim of the Arizona crusade against the biker menace so far.
The Faithful Employee
Summerson went to work for Kingman as a police dispatcher in 1996. She excelled and transferred to another city job in October 1998. When she married her husband William in December 1999 the City Manager and the boss who eventually fired her came to her wedding. She became Human Resources Administrator in April 2002. Two years later her husband joined the Desert Road Riders.
According to the suit, “From that point forward, Summerson regularly and openly showed her support for the DRRMC by wearing DRRMC colors and apparel to work and openly discussing her participating in DRRMC events with her co-workers.”
She moved to Pennsylvania in June 2006 to be closer to her terminally ill father-in-law but she stayed in touch with her former boss, Human Resources Director Jackie Walker and other Kingman employees. After William Summerson’s father died in 2011, Walker recruited Melissa Summerson to come back to work for Kingman. When the Summersons moved back west, members of the Desert Road Riders helped them move and gave them a temporary place to live.
Summerson did such a good job that the City manager and the Police Chief offered her the job of Dispatch Director in February 2012 but she turned the promotion down because she wanted to stay in Human Resources. The next month she got another glowing performance evaluation.
No Colors In Kingman
At the instigation of GIITEM, Kingman had begun to enforce a “no colors policy” wherever possible throughout the city. According to the suit, “In October 2012, Summerson told another City employee that her husband would not be welcome to ride in a law enforcement-sponsored toy run due to his membership in the DRRMC because the sponsors did not allow “colors” on their run. Subsequently, on October 25, 2012, Police Chief DeVries emailed Captain Scott Wright a copy of a webpage from the ACMC (Arizona Confederation of Clubs) website, indicating the member clubs, associates, and friends/guests/supporters. On November 17, 2012, Summerson, her husband and another member of the DRRMC were pulled over by Kingman Police Officer Joe Weber for allegedly speeding on their motorcycles while returning from a funeral. After discussing the incident with the three of them, Officer Weber gave them each a warning for excessive speed.”
“After the November 17, 2012 incident, Sergeant Shay Weber sent a memo to Captain Rusty Cooper regarding the traffic stop and regarding Summerson’s association with her husband and the DRRMC and her husband’s membership in the DRRMC.”
On November 19, a Kingman cop named Donald A. Doughty sent another memo to a police lieutenant named Mark Chastain. Doughty had done an “investigation” of Summerson for Kingman Police Captain Scott Wright. The long memo reported that William Summerson was friends with members of the Desert Low Riders, that Doughty had “witnessed Summerson selling DRRMC raffle tickets,” and stating that William Summerson had not ridden in the police toy run because of his association with his club.
Doughty’s memo also alleged that “outlaw motorcycle gang members” have “their wives, girlfriends, sisters, or other acquaintances obtain employment in positions where sensitive information may be found.” Doughty also “checked with the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Access Integrity Unit and determined that Summerson did not have a Terminal Operator Certification and therefore was limited in her access to sensitive information.” But, Doughty warned, Summerson “may…have access to background and criminal history information if her position involves the hiring of new employees.” Doughty also told Chastain that “there is no known DPS Policy which restricts the employment of family members related to members of motorcycle and/or street gangs…” and he had been “advised that in some situations, the activity of employees has been monitored to check for possible privacy violations.” Doughty also wrote that Summerson had been seen wearing DRRMC support clothing on the DRRMC website and on the social media site Facebook.
Dealing With The Outlaw Problem
On November 27, Summerson’s friend and boss, Jackie Walker, met with the Kingman Police Chief about Summerson and her associations. According to the suit, the chief then sent Walker “an email indicating that Captain Wright obtained information from the GIITEM Task Force. On December 3, 2012, Walker discussed Summerson with City Attorney Carl Cooper. On December 13, 2012, Walker emailed herself draft language stating ‘You are an associate of a documented Criminal Street Gang, Desert Road Riders a documented support club of the Hell’s (sic) Angels, under A.R.S. 13-105. As such, your association with Criminal Street Gangs causes us great concern. Because Criminal Street Gangs are known to have strict rules which controls (sic) the behavior and functions of its members, your access to confidential information is in direct conflict with the role of Human Resources.’”
The day after Christmas, Summerson was placed on paid administrative leave until December 28. The same day Walker gave Summerson Notice of Intent to Terminate effective December 28. The sole reason for the termination was that Summerson was associated with the Desert Road Riders which was a “documented criminal Outlaw Motorcycle Gang (OMG)” and “a support club of the Hell’s (sic) Angels, which is a criminal street gang as defined by ARS 13-105.”
The suit states, “Summerson asked Walker if Summerson could keep her job if her husband resigned from the DRRMC. Walker said no.”
The next day Walker, who had known William Summerson was a Desert Road Rider for eight years and who had recruited Summerson to move back to Kingman, “emailed (City Attorney) Cooper an attachment from the FBI’s website regarding gang sophistication and gang infiltration of corrections, law enforcement, and government in various parts of the country. The attachment reported that gang members in at least 57 jurisdictions have applied for or gained employment within judicial, police or correctional agencies. Likewise, the attachment reported that gang members in at least 75 jurisdictions have compromised or corrupted judicial, law enforcement, or correctional staff within the past three years.”
According to the suit, “Nothing in the report implicated Summerson, her husband, the DRRMC or anyone in Arizona of any of the alleged conduct. At 5:35 p.m. on December 27, 2012, Walker emailed Summerson a letter notifying her that the City was upholding the decision to terminate Summerson’s employment effective at 5:00 p.m. on December 28, 2012. Walker copied Kramer and Cooper on the letter.”
“In that letter, Walker stated that ‘My decision is supported by the fact that employees of the City’s law enforcement, legal, dispatch, and court system are apprehensive in continuing their work relationship with the human resources/risk management department. The association with a documented OMG severely jeopardizes the security of confidential employee information and the safety of this large segment of our workforce. The loss of a close and trusting relationship with these employees is a significant disruption to the efficiency of the services human resources/risk management provides.”
The suit asks for a jury trial and does not specify damages sought. Summerson is represented by Attorney David C. Kresin of Phoenix.