Tucson mayoral candidate Regina Romero says a letter and video left at her City Council office by an off-duty police officer is a “repugnant and vile” personal attack just weeks before the city’s Democratic primary.
The two-page letter questions whether Romero used her position as a three-term council member to influence the police handling of her sister’s DUI arrest in September 2017, which is shown in a 90-minute police body-camera video that was also left with her.
The officer, James Voss, was cleared of wrongdoing by the city. He says he was acting as a private citizen who simply sought information from Romero about how the arrest was handled. He says he has no political motive.
But Romero contends the letter and video are a thinly veiled attempt to intimidate her at the peak of the campaign.
Romero’s sister, Margarita Romero-Durazzi, is shown on the video repeatedly swearing at a female Tucson police officer. She tells officers she’s the sister of the councilwoman but also begs them not to call Romero.
Voss, the police officer, obtained the video and other records through a public-records request. He says he waited 14 months to get the information from the department, which indicates that he requested the information before Romero announced she would run for mayor.
“What I saw was a person who was extremely intoxicated. She was unbelievably rude, and I cannot see how any of the DUI charges were dismissed,” wrote Voss in the letter to Romero. “This leaves me with a question to which I would like an answer. Should everyone in America receive equal protection under the law as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution Fourteenth Amendment, or should justice be administered based on the defendant’s last name, influence from family members or anything other than the facts of the case?”
Romero denies any wrongdoing. She says she first learned her sister got a DUI when Voss went to her Ward 1 office on Tucson’s west side with the letter and video.
“Let me make it very, very clear, perfectly clear. I didn’t know about this incident with my sister. When this letter was delivered is when I found out what happened. She went through it alone. She didn’t talk to any of the family,” Romero told the Star.
In a memo dated last week, City Attorney Mike Rankin and Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus say Romero never discussed the arrest with either man until after the letter was dropped off. It goes on to say Romero-Durazzi reached a plea agreement that was handled “by the book.”
“The plea offer and disposition of the case demonstrate no special treatment was extended to your sister,” the city attorney and chief wrote.
Romero, however, finds the timing of Voss’ visit to her office suspicious.
“I knew immediately that the timing of it was deliberate and calculated,” she said. Her campaign has been the target of a whisper campaign seeking to to discredit her, Romero said.
Her critics have gone to great lengths “to insult me and use my identity as if I cannot represent people,” she said.
In her 12 years on the council, she said this is the first time her family has been targeted.
“That for me is repugnant and vile, and it’s not only questioning me as a council member, but it’s also questioning our judicial system, our court system, our prosecutor, our defense, and the judge,” she said.
The city has cleared Romero of political interference.
On Thursday, Voss said he carefully wrote the letter in an attempt to talk to Romero about the arrest.
“I saw something that concerned me,” he said. “I was asking a question of a (city) representative.”
A retired member of the military, Voss said he was always encouraged to ask questions to the chain of command.
However, he said he feels targeted by Romero for asking the question, noting that she found out where he worked and went straight to the police chief to complain.
“I was surprised and disappointed. I thought I could send something out and ask a question and get an answer, not bring my career into jeopardy,” Voss said.
A review by the Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards noted that Voss did not violate any city policies, nor did he use any city resources in preparing, writing or delivering his letter to Romero.
A representative for the Tucson Police Officers Association — which has endorsed one of Romero’s opponents, former state Sen. Steve Farley — says it has nothing to do with Voss’ actions. The police union also says Voss is not a member of the TPOA.
The third candidate for mayor in the Democratic primary is developer Randi Dorman. The city’s mail-in Democratic primary is Aug. 27. The winner faces independent Ed Ackerley, a businessman, in the November general election.