Tempe is investigating its police chief for writing a letter intended to help a councilwoman’s son defend himself for growing marijuana.
Chief Ralph Tranter’s letter contained information a defense attorney could use and it recommended a sentence in the conviction of Colby Carter, City Manager Will Manley said Monday.
Carter, 31, is the son of Councilwoman Barb Carter. He pleaded guilty earlier this year to possessing marijuana for sale, production of marijuana and three counts of possessing drug paraphernalia.
Manley opened the investigation late last year when a city employee gave him a photocopy of Tranter’s letter. It wasn’t on city stationery, but its contents — and the people involved — caused Manley to commission an outside investigation. A private law firm is looking into the matter so no city employees are involved.
“We wanted it to be completely independent,” Manley said.
The letter, which Manley would not release, was written in October and addressed “To whom it may concern,” Manley said.
“It was intended for the use of the defendant and his attorney,” Manley said.
Tranter did not return phone calls seeking comment.
The city would not disclose other information about the letter Monday. Manley said he expects to release it as part of the investigation, which should be complete this week.
The city is exploring why Tranter wrote the letter and how another city employee obtained it. The investigation has led to the questioning of five to 10 city employees, said Manley, who characterized it as “no more than a personnel investigation.”
Barb Carter is not a focus of the inquiry, Marlene Pontrelli, city attorney, said.
“There is no additional need to do any investigation into any other persons beyond this investigation,” Pontrelli said.
Barb Carter said Tranter didn’t try to influence the investigation, noting his letter came six months after the report was filed.
“I didn’t ask Ralph to write a letter. He volunteered after he had heard that my son had turned his life around,” Barb Carter wrote in a statement. “Ralph wanted to support us as a family.”
Tempe police searched Colby Carter’s home March 18, 2005. They found 18 indoor marijuana plants and an extensive hydroponics system, according to court records. Along with the 18-inch plants, police found seeds in plastic bags, price sheets with costs for different varieties and a ledger with four names and dollar amounts.
Police questioned Colby Carter about some marijuana found in a plastic bag, according to court records.
“The defendant said it was just leaves, and it was for ‘cooking,’ ” court documents stated.
Colby Carter told police this was the first time he’d grown marijuana, but police noted he was arrested in 1996 for attempted production of marijuana in Flagstaff.
Police determined Colby Carter had 2.68 pounds of marijuana, but his attorney argued the weight should be less because police weighed it before it had dried.
Colby Carter is professional skateboarder who has been involved with the development of more than 60 municipal skate parks around the world, according to the Web site of his employer.