Arizona lawmaker who was fired by police department for lying will keep leadership posts
State Rep. Anthony Kern is listed on a database of law enforcement officials accused of dishonesty, but that won’t put him in jeopardy of losing his leadership position overseeing public safety issues in Arizona.
Kern, R-Glendale, was added to the “Brady List” list in 2014 after he was fired by the El Mirage Police Department, where he worked as a civilian code enforcement officer. That placement on what some view as a blacklist for law enforcement agencies came to light this week.
El Mirage fired Kern after he lied to a supervisor about repaying the city for a lost tablet computer, according to public records. He also faced a string of other disciplinary problems.
Kern was elected to the Arizona House of Representatives around that time and has since risen to leadership posts.
He now plays a crucial role in shaping criminal justice bills in the House, where he serves as chairman of the Committee on Rules and vice chairman of the Committee on Public Safety — two coveted committee roles.
Kern has defended his record, saying El Mirage added his name to the list without any “prior notice.”
“I am a man of integrity,” Kern told The Arizona Republic. “I guess this is the blood sport of politics.”
But it appears Kern doesn’t need to worry about keeping his leadership posts in the Legislature. House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, signaled he has no intention of removing Kern.
“I have no reason at this time to believe that his committee duties will be impacted,” Bowers said in a brief statement.
Democratic leaders in the House also haven’t called for Kern to be removed from his committee roles. However, some progressive groups have demanded he be stripped of those titles.
“Anthony Kern is everything that’s wrong with politicians these days” Josselyn Berry, co-Director of Progress Now Arizona, said in a text message. “Speaker Bowers should do the right thing and remove Kern from his leadership positions.”
Kern pushed bill that could help him
The publication also reported that Kern convinced a fellow lawmaker, Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, to propose a bill this year that would allow disgraced law enforcement workers to try to get their names removed from the list.
Kern said he asked Kavanagh to sponsor the bill because it would help other law enforcement officials who’ve been unfairly blacklisted like him.
“I’m not a victim, but I have been hurt by the system,” he said. “A lot of these people put on these lists are not criminals, so to continually look at them as bad people … is absolutely wrong.”
Kern said he, like other law enforcement on the list, wasn’t given any notice or a chance to appeal his inclusion.
Kavanagh’s proposal, House Bill 2671, was amended to remove the opportunity for an appeal. A version that passed the House 59-0 this week would only require police agencies to give officers seven days notice before they are put on the list.
Kavanagh, a retired cop, said Kern didn’t tell him he was on the Brady List when he approached him to run the bill.
“I was surprised, but I can understand why he would not want to mention that since it’s somewhat embarrassing,” Kavanagh said, adding that Kern’s situation “doesn’t make the bill any less worthy.”
So-called “Brady lists” are named after a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court cast that required police departments to disclose to defendants information about dishonest law enforcement officers who may be unfit to testify in court.
Kern’s name appears on a list maintained by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, known as the “Law Enforcement Rule 15 Disclosure Database.”
He currently works as a campus safety officer at Grand Canyon University, a private Christian college in west Phoenix, and as a private investigator, according to his Linkedin page.
Kern came under fire in2015 for falsely claiming to be “certified peace officer,” according to the Arizona Capitol Times. He claimed he was a certified officer in a caucus meeting. He also listed himself as an Arizona certified officer on financial disclosure forms, although he was not.
He said the issue is a matter of “semantics” because he had graduated from the Glendale Community College Law Enforcement Training Academy, but wasn’t sponsored by a law enforcement agency, which is required to gain certification.
According to the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, Kern received a certification waiver from the Tombstone Marshals Office in 2017.
“I’ve talked with AZPOST; it’s an issue of semantics,” Kern said.
Fired for dishonesty in El Mirage
Kern’s personnel file from El Mirage states he was terminated for violating the department’s policy requiring “absolute truthfulness” from employees to supervisors.
According to city records, he lost a tablet computer worth $659 and agreed to repay the city for it, but “Kern misled his supervisor into believing he was making payments, when he was not.”
But Kern said El Mirage violated a confidentiality agreement, though he declined to elaborate. He signed a severance agreement with the city in early 2015.
According to the agreement, El Mirage must say Kern “voluntarily resigned” and give him a “neutral” job reference. The city also paid Kern $7,000 and waived $454 he owed for the lost tablet.
In turn, Kern signed a “covenant not to sue” El Mirage and agreed to drop an appeal of his August 2014 termination.
Kern declined to discuss his firing in detail. El Mirage didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“I would rather not comment on the El Mirage piece because I’m looking at all my options,” Kern said. “I think El Mirage broke their confidentiality component.”
String of disciplinary issues with city
Public records show Kern had string of disciplinary issues during his nearly decade-long tenure in El Mirage. He worked for the city from March 2005 to November 2014.
Among the issues outlined in his personnel file:
Kern was reprimanded in 2013 after he used his city truck to get a haircut during a lunch break. City policy prohibited using vehicles for personal errands.
Two residents complained Kern harassed them during a code dispute in 2006 and told them “I’ll see you in court sweetheart.” City officials counseled Kern to have a more professional demeanor.
A 2006 performance review raised concerns about Kern’s attitude, saying, “he is often perceived by residents to have a tone that is ‘condescending.'” The review states “one formal restraining order has been filed against him and several others were threatened.” Kern said he never received a restraining order.
His 2006 review also states Kern inappropriately “lobbied the mayor regarding his personal pay package.” He denied that complaint.