LAS VEGAS — A Clark County School District police dispatcher who’s been named a defendant in the Angela Peterson wrongful death lawsuit was transferred out of her police department post Friday.
According to multiple sources, employees of the department received an email notice — “effective immediately” — stating Tina Zuniga is “no longer an active employee of the Clark County School District Police Department,” and “should be afforded the same access and courtesy to CCSDPD facilities as would be extended to a visitor.”
While Zuniga will “continue to be an active member of the Clark County School District,” sources say, employees were asked not to communicate with Zuniga in the future regarding any official matter considered confidential by the district’s police department.
Zuniga’s transfer comes after what appears to be a recording of a 2011 jail-house phone call was submitted to school police internal affairs.
The recording, which has yet to be authenticated, has been characterized as a phone conversation between Kevin Miranda and his girlfriend Marissa — Zuniga’s daughter.
Miranda was 18 when he attended a 2009 party involving CCSD police employees and underage drinking. After leaving the party, he smashed his car into the car of UNLV honor student Angela Peterson, killing her. Miranda — who admitted getting drunk at that 2009 party — is currently serving time in jail.
At the time, allegations circulated that school-police supervisors had attempted a cover-up. Earlier this year, federal magistrate Larry Hicks ruled that, because evidence of a cover-up initiated by school police does exist, the case will move forward to trial.
Zuniga’s departure came unexpectedly to co-workers and others in the district.
According to one witness, soon after Zuniga had been called into the office of Sgt. Stephanie Palacio, she was seen gathering her bag and leaving.
“It was a surprise to everybody,” said the employee, speaking on the basis of anonymity. “Tina loves her position.”
Marc Cook, attorney for the Peterson’s, says he hasn’t been told why Zuniga transferred, but is aware the transfer occurred.
The jail-house recording, says Cook, directly contradicts what CCSD police department employees have said in sworn testimony — under penalty of perjury.
“This recording,” he told Nevada Journal, “confirms what we have alleged all along — and what the school district has denied to Angela’s parents, to the media, and in pleadings and statements to the court throughout this litigation — [that] CCSD police department employees were playing beer pong with minors.”
The ten-minute recording is an apparent conversation between Miranda and Marissa discussing the implications of a media interview where Miranda admitted he played beer pong with adults at the November 2009 party.
“Well, then my mom’s going to go to jail now,” responds Marissa.
“For what?” asks Miranda.
“For playing with you,” Marissa replies.
A while later, Miranda tries to calm his girlfriend — to no avail — by telling her he didn’t name any names.
“I didn’t tell them who it was,” says Miranda, “They just said adults. They didn’t ask me who.”
According to the audio, Miranda admitted to playing beer pong with adults because the media had a picture.
“The only one is a picture of you playing with three people,” cries Marissa, worried her mom will go to jail, “and that’s her and Cynthia.”
This disclosure, says Cook, is a “brief bit of truth when they know others are listening.”
Jail-house phone calls disclose that parties are being recorded. So participants are typically cautious, he noted. Nevertheless, jail-house recordings are often used as evidence in criminal investigations.
“The fact that this recording has not been referenced by Metro or CCSD police,” said Cook, “also supports the troubling positions we have believed all along — cops protect cops, CCSD didn’t want to know what happened and worked very hard to not find out the truth.”
School district officials have yet to respond to Nevada Journal’s weekend inquiry into Zuniga’s transfer, any new internal affairs investigations resulting from this audio or the current cost to taxpayers to defend this case.
Billing documents obtained by the publication last December indicate CCSD had already obligated more than $400,000 defending this lawsuit by November 2013.
Whether this recording could be cause for the district to concider settlement in this case is still a question pending CCSD response.
Cook believes more of the entire story will soon be revealed.
“Formulated lies and cover-ups are difficult to maintain,” he says.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.