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Union chief accused before

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City took no action in that case either

By Martin Salazar

The head of one of the city’s unions who has been charged with battery over an October incident was accused in April of bullying another man and even threatening to have him thrown out of his public housing unit.

Benito Lujan, 32, who works for the city’s housing department, wasn’t charged or disciplined over the April incident.

“It’s a personnel matter, so I’m limited about what I can say about it,” City Attorney Dave Romero said Wednesday. “I do know this incident was reviewed by the city. It was reviewed about the time it occurred. No disciplinary action was taken.”

Lujan is president of the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2851, the union that represents most city of Las Vegas employees.

He didn’t respond to a message left for him at the city housing office Wednesday, but Romero said Lujan’s version of the April 2 incident was different than the written statements submitted by his accusers, Frankie D. Chavez, and Chavez’s wife, Juliane.

Romero said no neutral third-party witnessed the April 2 exchange, and there was no clear and convincing evidence of what occurred.

Without corroborating witnesses, he said, the city didn’t have the evidence needed to discipline Lujan.

Written statements obtained by the Optic chronicle the Chavezes version of events. Both statements are dated April  3, the day after the incident, and both were notorized by City Clerk Casandra Fresquez. The Chavezes say they gave those statements to City Housing Director Robert Pacheco and to the Las Vegas Police Department.

The statements allege that Lujan followed the Chavezes home, that he challenged Frankie Chavez to fight, that he made an offensive sexual remark about Frankie Chavez and one of Lujan’s coworkers and that he was going to get Frankie Chavez thrown out of his housing unit.

No attempts were ever made to actually throw the Chavezes out of their housing unit, and the Chavezes also say that there was no physical altercation on April 2.

VERBAL ALTERCATION
The statements provided by Frankie Chavez and his wife were very similar.

According to Frankie Chavez’s statement:

He and his wife were on their way home from picking up dinner from a local restaurant at about 5 p.m. that day when they encountered a vehicle with tinted windows. Frankie Chavez couldn’t see who the driver was, but he saw what he thought to be someone throwing a finger.

Frankie Chavez responded by throwing a finger himself. As he drove into his parking space, he noticed that someone in a white GMC truck with tinted windows drove up to the driver side of his vehicle.

When Frankie Chavez got down from his vehicle, he realized it was Lujan. “Benito Lujan started telling me that, ‘when did I start getting brave,’ and then is when Benito Lujan asked me if I wanted to box with him,” Frankie Chavez wrote.

Frankie Chavez said Lujan called him a loser and said that he was worthless.

“He was telling me this in front of my wife,” Chavez wrote. “So I told Benito to get off his truck and fight then...”

Frankie Chavez said he traded verbal insults with Lujan. At that point, he wrote, Lujan began making sexually harassing comments involving Chavez and one of Lujan’s own coworkers.

Frankie Chavez wrote that he responded by calling Lujan a political kiss a**.

“Then is when the confrontation escalated and again Benito Lujan tried to provoke me into boxing with him again, telling me to hit him first,” Chavez wrote. “Again I told him to get down from his truck, and he told me to hit him first and that (he) was going to knock me out and get me thrown out of my housing unit.”

According to Frankie Chavez’s statement, he told Lujan he wouldn’t throw the first punch because if he did that, Lujan could get him evicted.

“Then is when he said to me that he is going to get me kicked out anyway and laughed while he said this to me,” Frankie Chavez wrote.

Frankie Chavez added that he felt Lujan was abusing his authority.

Juliane Chavez’s statement backs up what her husband wrote.

The Chavezes said that when they read the story in the Optic about the confrontation between Lujan and local activist Lorenzo Flores they felt he did the same thing to Flores that he did to them.

“If Robert Pacheco would have done his job, this wouldn’t have happened,” Frankie Chavez said. He also accused city officials of covering up for Lujan, saying any other city employee would have been fired.

DUE PROCESS
Romero, the city attorney, said Lujan is being treated the same way as any other employee.

He said that with all employees accused of wrongdoing, the city investigates until it has met the burden of proof required to dole out discipline.

“So far in these allegations, it does not come close,” he said.

“We have a legal obligation before we take away any employee’s rights to make sure they’re getting full due process and we’re getting both sides of the story,” he said. “Jumping to conclusions about what has occurred is exactly what we’ve tried to avoid. That’s why we try to take time and look at both sides...”

Romero added that the city is monitoring the criminal case filed against Lujan.

The criminal case stems from an Oct. 17 incident outside of KNMX radio station. Lujan has been charged with battery, a petty misdemeanor.

Flores and another man were being critical about problems within the city housing department. Lujan drove to KNMX and confronted Flores after the broadcast.

Flores, who is elderly and disabled, alleges that Lujan punched him in the face. Lujan denies punching Flores, though he admits that he drove to the radio station and confronted him.