- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2001

DALLAS Several top police commanders, demoted and ridiculed 22 months ago when Terrell Bolton was named police chief here, likely will be paid more than $8 million in settlements a result of lawsuits they filed claiming they should not have been demoted without just cause.

The city council agreed in June to pay between $500,000 and $1.2 million to six former assistant chiefs or deputy chiefs and Wednesday is expected to approve paying $750,000 and $900,000 to two others. Two more have refused the city's offers of about $2 million between them.

The department's "reorganization" in October 1999 by Chief Bolton, the city's first black police chief, immediately took on racial overtones because six of those demoted were white, one a Latino, and it virtually wiped out the command staff. No other Dallas police chief had ever demoted ranking commanders without cause.

Some council members and residents have criticized the chief for making wide-ranging changes so rapidly and have questioned whether he obtained legal advice before the moves. The city is facing a revenue shortfall of several million dollars that has made the multimillion-dollar settlements unpalatable to taxpayers.

Chief Bolton promoted lower-ranking officers, often several ranks, claiming they were "more loyal." He said it would save the city $12 million annually. There has been no indication of that becoming reality.

The chief claims city lawyers told him it was within his power to organize his staff any way he wanted.

But in depositions and court testimony, that did not appear to be the case.

Marcos Ronquillo, a $250-an-hour private lawyer hired by the city to deal with the conflict, testified in court last month that Chief Bolton asked him about the legality of removing the commanders about a month after he already had done it.

The police chief testified under oath in January that he went ahead with his sweeping plans only after gaining approval from the city attorney's office and from Mr. Ronquillo. He said he presented "my restructuring plans, how that would fit in with the powers of the charter as well as the police chief's power in terms of removal authority and basically the entire structure."

"I'm not going to sit here and say he's a liar," Mr. Ronquillo has said, "but I'm working off my time sheets."

Chief Bolton has declined to comment on several occasions, saying the cases are still in litigation and his attorneys have urged him to remain silent.

City Attorney Madeleine Johnson has repeatedly declined to comment.

The two officers to reach agreement last week were Capt. Will Rollins, formerly the department's No. 2 man, and Manuel Vasquez, formerly executive assistant chief, the only one involved in the purge who did not file suit against the city. Mr. Vasquez has since retired and is chief of security for the Dallas Independent School System. Capt. Rollins suffers from colon cancer and said he probably will retire soon.

Capt. Rollins' case was somewhat different. His demotion came in September 1999 after a citizen claimed he had accidentally bumped her automobile and did not stay at the scene. Capt. Rollins denied that he had bumped the citizen's car, and in a January appeal hearing, his attorney offered testimony that indicated the woman had caused the fender-bender.

U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish ruled last month that Capt. Rollins should have been allowed to appeal his demotion, saying he had a "property right" to his job and could not be stripped of his position and salary without due process.

Some of the commanders have been reinstated to their positions, with back pay. Others have obtained new positions in other cities.

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