City police sued in federal court

William Thompson

A woman denied employment by Tucumcari police has filed a lawsuit claiming she was a victim of discrimination.
Vivian Martinez claims she was not hired because of her former employment as an exotic dancer.

Paul Baker, office manager for the law firm Linda G. Hemphill, P.C., which represents Martinez, said her trial began Aug. 16 and should wrap up around Monday, Aug. 23.
Tucumcari Police Chief Dennis Townsend could not be reached for comment. City Manager Richard Primrose will appear at the trial Aug. 23. “Our attorney has asked me to testify,” said Primrose. “That’s basically all I can say about it. The trial is still in progress.”

Baker said Martinez applied for a job with Tucumcari police in the fall of 2001. “She was told that two positions were open. After testing, two candidates were qualified, Martinez and a white male. Only the white male was hired,” he said.
Baker said former Tucumcari City Attorney Michelle Reeves originally told Martinez the reason she was not hired was because of discrepancies on her job application.

Baker said Martinez went to the New Mexico Human Rights Division with her complaints and the human rights division sent a letter to the Tucumcari Police Department asking why Martinez was not hired. The human rights division received a letter from Reeves stating that Martinez was not hired because, “We considered her to be of low moral character,” said Baker.

Reeves said she has given testimony in the case and did not wish to comment further. Baker said that seven years prior to applying to the police department, Martinez had been an exotic dancer in Albuquerque and that two Tucumcari police officers visited the show club where she worked. Baker said Martinez thinks the two officers recognized her when she applied to the police department. “It is our position that exotic dancing is a protected freedom of expression. Her exotic dancing should not have been an issue in the hiring process,” said Baker.

Baker said Martinez was notified by Townsend on Nov. 28, 2001, that she would not be hired because there were discrepancies between an application she submitted to the police department and an application she had previously submitted to the city of Tucumcari. “The three jobs she listed as her previous employment on the city application were not the same three jobs she listed on the police department application,” said Baker.

Baker said Townsend later expressed concerns about Martinez’ wrist. Martinez claims there was nothing wrong with her wrist except a benign cyst and that would not preclude her from being a police officer.
Martinez is seeking monetary damages.