June 21, 2006 - The Marana Police Department last week rehired an officer it fired in March for drunk driving and two domestic violence-related arrests.
John DeStefano went back to work June 15 as a patrol officer; he had worked as a motorcycle officer.
The town settled with DeStefano, who filed an appeal of Marana Police Chief Richard Vidaurri's March 17 decision to fire the officer.
"I think everybody is happy with the agreement," said DeStefano's attorney Mike Storie.
Under the settlement agreement, DeStefano can't apply for any promotions for a year. The department hired him back at his previous annual salary of $52,562.
On Dec. 18, Pima County deputies charged DeStefano with DUI. He drove his car off Twin Peaks Road near Silverbell Road after leaving a Christmas party at the home of a Marana dispatcher.
DeStefano stumbled, slurred his speech and initially refused to take a field sobriety test. He told one deputy he "was not impaired enough to drink," according to a sheriff's department report.
A blood test conducted after the arrest measured DeStefano's blood alcohol content at .186, more than twice the legal limit.
Nine days after the DUI arrest, deputies showed up at DeStefano's house, this time charging him for domestic violence-related criminal damage. During an argument with his wife, the police officer punched a microwave and threw a bag of party cups at his wife, just missing her, according to deputy reports.
A breathalyzer test showed DeStefano drunk again, reports state. He drank about six martinis, his wife told deputies.
Prosecutors dropped the criminal damage charges, as they did in 2003 with similar charges against DeStefano.
The Marana Police Department put the officer on paid leave after his most recent arrest, while an internal investigation played out. It marked the fourth time the department investigated its officer.
On March 12, Vidaurri notified the officer of his intentions to fire him. Five days later, the chief delivered on his promise.
DeStefano appealed, requesting a town committee review his situation and demanding back payment for wagest lost during the internal investigation. The town entered into settlement talks with DeStefano and his attorney.
The town's outside counsel for the matter, Todd Hale, failed to return phone calls by the EXPLORER's deadline.
The town's legal department released a copy of the settlement agreement, which outlines DeStefano's reinstatement.
The department will test the officer randomly for alcohol and drugs, according to the agreement. DeStefano also will undergo counseling.
He can't use a take-home vehicle or travel outside the greater Tucson area for training, the agreement states.
Despite the officer's reinstatement, the town "continues to maintain that just cause supported its termination of DeStefano's employment," according to the agreement.
"We have to have the public's trust," Vidaurri said in March when he fired DeStefano. "When we go out and do things that discredit the police profession, it damages our credibility."
Vidaurri failed to return several phone calls and an e-mail by the EXPLORER's deadline for this story.
DeStefano did not return a phone call. In a March appeal of his firing, he wrote "I have not been convicted of the DUI, but even if I were to be convicted, the resulting discipline of termination is excessive when compared to other agencies.
DeStefano on July 20 will appear in Pima County Justice Court for an evidentiary hearing on the DUI charge. A judge will decide what evidence to hear or whether the case will go to trial.
DeStefano's attorney has asked the judge to strike key evidence, including his client's statements to deputies, according to court documents.
"Our office, of course, feels (the case) will move forward," said Marcia Fraioli-Nugent, Communications Coordinator for the Pima County Attorney's Office.
The department would place DeStefano on leave without pay should any punishment from the DUI charge affect his ability to perform his police duties.