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Investigation clears NM deputy named in firefighter claim

Sheriff's office officials requested the fire department fire Dan Goldberg, the firefighter who filed the complaint

By Ryan Boetel
The Daily Times

AZTEC, N.M.  An internal investigation stemming from a formal complaint a San Juan County firefighter made against a San Juan County deputy revealed the deputy didn't mistreat the firefighter or violate any sheriff's office policies.

In a letter from the sheriff's office to the fire department describing the investigation, sheriff's office officials requested the fire department fire Dan Goldberg, the firefighter who filed the complaint, because deputies don't trust him.

"Public safety and scene security are imperative while serving the public. Public trust is of vital importance to the sheriff. If we can't trust fire or (Emergency Medical Services) members then we cannot provide a high level of service," San Juan County Sheriff's Office Capt. Brice Current, who oversees internal affairs, said in the letter. "We have never had conflict among fire and deputies before and would like to avoid it in the future. We recommend, to Chief (Doug) Hatfield, that Mr. Goldberg be suspended from the fire department until further notice. To prevent any future conflicts and liability in reference to public trust issues, we recommend that he be removed."

Current declined to release the entire letter sent to the fire department because he said it also mentions investigations from other agencies that Goldberg affected.

Chief Hatfield said he reviewed the letter but didn't find any cause to terminate Goldberg. He said he asked the county's legal department to also weigh in on the issue.

Goldberg filed a formal complaint in January against San Juan County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Terry McCoy. Goldberg said McCoy defamed him and made untrue statements in two formal complaints McCoy filed against Goldberg. On Friday, Goldberg filed a tort claims notice against the sheriff's office, which means he may file a lawsuit against the agency.

One of McCoy's complaints arose from a rollover crash on Oct. 31 on U.S. Highway 64 near Andrea Drive.

Goldberg was dispatched to the scene as a firefighter, and he said he found spice, or synthetic marijuana, cash and a drug pipe in the vehicle. Goldberg said he collected the items and gave them to a deputy, which he said he had permission to do.

Goldberg said McCoy showed up on the scene and started yelling at him in public.

Current said he reviewed all videos and reports from the incident and interviewed the deputies on the scene. He said the tapes show McCoy acted appropriately and told Goldberg not to collect evidence.

"The fact that he tampered with the evidence ... breaks our chain of custody and hinders our investigation and our ability to prove possession and ownership over those substances," Current said. "You can see why a sergeant wouldn't want him touching evidence and would have a little bit of mistrust there."

Deputies investigating the rollover crash still arrested the driver, Diego Frias-Serrano, on suspicion of driving while impaired. He allegedly admitted at San Juan Regional Medical Center that he was smoking spice in his car while driving, according to court documents.

Frias-Serrano's case goes to trial this month.

Goldberg could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Copyright 2014 The Daily Times

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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