After refusing repeatedly to make public a 382-page survey that led to the retirement of the Peoria police chief, city officials said Monday that the document has been destroyed.
The survey, which was critical of the department's leadership and work environment and would have shed light on the Police Department's weaknesses, no longer exists, City Manager Terry Ellis said.
"The consultant told the people who were responding to the survey that after she did the report, they (the comments) would be discarded," Ellis said. "And after she wrote the report, she did that."
Ellis said the consultant, who was paid ,330 to conduct the survey, owned the results and said discarding them was part of normal operating procedure.
But an attorney for The Arizona Republic said the city was wrong not to prevent their destruction.
"Knowing the public's interest in inspecting these documents, the city should have taken steps to preserve them from destruction," said David Bodney, attorney for The Arizona Republic. "At best, it represents a violation of the public-records law, and at worst, it suggests an intention to destroy public property."
It was not clear if the survey was destroyed before or after The Arizona Republic's request to view the comments.
"If the records were destroyed after The Republic made its request to inspect them, then the conduct truly would be inexcusable, particularly if the city knew that this contractor would be destroying these records," Bodney said.
The request came after Police Chief David Leonardo, 57, announced last month that he would retire after five years on the job. Instead of releasing the full survey, the city released a three-page summary. The report faults the department for its weak leadership and work environment but provides few details.
Acting Chief Larry Ratcliff declined to comment on the survey or about the department under his predecessor, and Leonardo has turned down all requests for interviews.
However, the police union's president says morale took a beating under Leonardo's tenure. Leonardo was criticized as an autocrat who was uneven in his treatment of employees.
Ted Garrison, president of the 120-member Peoria Police Officers Association, said the union wanted to view the survey and planned to file a public-records request this week.
Garrison said that if supervisors have indicated that the department was not heading in the right direction, officers have the right to know.
Seattle-based consultant Rhonda Hilyer of Agreement Dynamics surveyed police managers and supervisors in September. Deputy City Manager Susan Thorpe, who oversees public safety, is the only city official who has read all 382 pages of comments. She has refused to discuss details.
Peoria officials said they did not take possession of the survey because they assured respondents that their comments would remain anonymous.
But Bodney said that failing to keep the original is a violation of the state's public-records law, which requires public officials to keep an accurate record of official activities.