Is the Pima Sheriff’s Dept defending the misconduct of their own?
On March 4, 2016, a commander at the Pima County Sheriff’s Department sent a derogatory email defaming Mark Napier using his department issued cell phone to send the email and the County email server to transmit it. This email was sent to more than 100 PCSD employees. Mark Napier was at this time a private citizen who had indicated interest in running for Sheriff in 2016. This email was a clear attempt to erode support for him among department members and thereby potentially affect the outcome of a County election.
This email was sent in violation of Arizona Revised Statute 11–410, which states, “A county shall not spend or use its resources, including the use or expenditure of monies, accounts, credit, facilities, vehicles, postage, telecommunications, computer hardware and software, web pages, personnel, equipment, materials, buildings or any other thing of value, for the purpose of influencing the outcomes of elections.” A County issued cell phone was used to send the message and the County’s email server was used to transit the message.
On March 14, 2016, KVOA News ran an investigative report regarding this illegal use of County resources (N4T Investigators: Paid to Campaign?www.kvoa.com/story/31466344/n4t-investigators-paid-to-campaign).
When interviewed regarding this incident both Appointed Sheriff Nanos and the commander admitted to the violation. The email is an undisputed matter of public record. Mr. Nanos stated, “He didn’t embarrass me, and I don’t know that he even embarrassed this department. It’s a shame it happened. We’ll get it handled. We’ll do our end, County Attorney will do their end. But I really believe that it’s pretty benign.” While we were shocked that a violation of the law by a PCSD commander would be deemed “pretty benign” we trusted that Mr. Nanos would take appropriate action.
On March 29, 2016, Mark Napier and Mr. Nanos met. During that meeting Mr. Nanos informed Mark that the email matter would be turned over to the State Attorney General for investigation. This would be the correct course of action. The County Attorney would rightly recluse herself due to a conflict of interest. It seemed little investigation would be required however, as the violation of law had been conceded. We again believed that Mr. Nanos would do the right thing.
On June 1, 2016, our campaign received a copy of an email sent on May 31 by PCSD Chief Woolridge informing all department members that the Pima County Information Technology Department (ITD) recently concluded an investigation into the use of email and reminded members to follow department policy and the law. This is apparently an effort to bring to a close the violation of the law involving email use committed on March 4. The Pima County ITD should not be investigating violations of the law that involve elections and the misuse of County resources.
Further, a simple email reminder is entirely inadequate to address a violation of the law that has specific sanctions. ARS 11–410(f) “For each violation of this section, the court may impose a civil penalty not to exceed five thousand dollars plus any amount of misused funds subtracted from the county budget against a person who knowingly violates or aids another person in violating this section. The person determined to be out of compliance with this section is responsible for the payment of all penalties and misused funds. County funds or insurance payments shall not be used to pay these penalties or misused funds. All misused funds collected pursuant to this section shall be returned to the county whose funds were misused.”
We need to remember that on May 17, 2016 a PCSD Sergeant announced his candidacy for Sheriff. On May 20, 2016, he was suspended without pay for an alleged policy violation. This after Mr. Nanos accepted the recommendation of County Administrator, Chuck Huckleberry.
It took three days to suspended without pay, without due process, a political rival for an alleged policy violation. Three months after a commander admits to both a violation of State Law and County Policy aimed at a political rival, he remains on the job collecting a salary of more than $100,000/year with no consequence. Further, all indications are that the Appointed Sheriff has made no effort to properly investigate this incident or apply the sanctions proscribed by state statute. This appears to be a clear abuse of power and a failure to enforce the law. We request the following:
- Mr. Nanos provide evidence that the issue involving the March 4 email is being appropriately investigated.
- Mr. Nanos apply PCSD policies without bias. If a political rival sergeant may be suspended without pay for an alleged policy violation, then a commander should receive a similar sanction for an admitted violation of the law aimed at a political rival.
- If Mr. Nanos fails to suspend the commander without pay, he should in the interest of fairness and equitable application of the rules, immediately reinstate the sergeant with back pay.
We believe that we have been reasonable in our approach to the issue involving the March 4 illegal email. We waited three months for some contact by PCSD, or others, to ensure us that Mr. Nanos was acting appropriately. It is possible that Mr. Nanos will provide evidence that the matter was turned over to the State Attorney General for investigation and that appropriate and equitable discipline was administered to the commander. It is reasonable to require the Appointed Sheriff to follow the law and to act without political bias or vindictiveness. Finally, we hope that he will address these concerns in a calm manner and resist the propensity to attack the messenger.
Originally published at TSON News by Three Sonorans.