PIMA COUNTY, Ariz. - On the first of the year, then Pima County Sheriff's Department Lieutenant Terry Parish was demoted. He lost his ranking that day and was re-classified as a sergeant -- coming with a significant pay cut. However, after an inconsistency in the rules, Parish will be reinstated, after a decision made by the Pima County Merit Commission. With 21 years on the force, Parish said he's looking forward and is ready to work.
"I'm not interested in being a Lieutenant that doesn't have a role to play on behalf of the citizens of Pima County," he said.
His demotion that came once current Sheriff Mark Napier took office came with a $30,000 pay cut, something that Parish says made life pretty difficult for his family.
However, the Merit Commission determined the way in which he was demoted was not by the book. He explained there was a lack of clarity in the language that surrounded the rules applicable to his situation.
Sheriff Napier gave KGUN9 this statement:
“On January 1, 2017, Lieutenant Terry Parish was demoted to the rank of sergeant as a result of his failure to successfully perform during his probationary period. This action was the result of input from several commanders in the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, review of performance incidents during probation, and was fully reviewed by Pima County Human Resources and Legal. Sergeant Parish appealed to the Pima County Merit Commission.
The issue before the Merit Commission was not a review of the cause for demotion or its merits. Rather, the only issue addressed by the Commission was whether there existed grounds for them to assume jurisdiction over an appeal of the demotion. Failure of probation, by Law Enforcement Merit Rules, is not appealable. On May 18, 2017, the Pima County Merit Commission determined it would have jurisdiction over an appeal in this case. This was due to a conflict in the language of Merit Commission Rules that made less clear how the term “effective date” should be applied. Due to this lack of clarity in the language of the rules and the unintended consequences they created, uncertainty was created about the application of the rules specific to Sergeant Parish’s demotion. When uncertainty exists in employee rights cases, the doubt created correctly leans in favor of the affected employee. Therefore, the Merit Commission found it would have jurisdiction to hear an appeal of the demotion.
The Merit Commission did not make any determination regarding the cause for demotion or make any ruling with respect to the merits of demotion. That was not the matter before the Commission. Any assertion to the contrary is false.
We will be reviewing this matter with Human Resources and our legal representatives in the coming weeks to determine the best path forward. I am grateful for the thoughtful approach of the Merit Commission and appreciate this inconsistency in the language of the rules being brought to our attention so that it may be rectified.”
As a result, Parish explained he will be receiving the money he was not paid, as if he never lost the position.
Sheriff Napier explained in January his demotion to sergeant, "came as a result of his failure to successfully perform during his probationary period," and it was not a politically motivated decision. During the election, Parish was an outspoken supporter of then Sheriff Chris Nanos.
Parish dismissed the claims that he was demoted as a result of his support for Nanos during the election.
"I thought about that, but I talked to Sheriff Napier," Parish said. "He looked me straight in the eye, and he told me that wasn't true -- and I take the man at his word."
But what if he is reinstated, then demoted again -- by the book? Regardless, Parish explained he's excited to work with Sheriff Napier in what he calls one of the best sheriff's departments in the nation.
"I'm interested in being a positive force for change in this community," Parish said. "I know that's what Sheriff Napier wants to do, and he's already done a lot of great stuff."
He said he hopes this will be the end of the situation, saying he and Sheriff Napier shook hands when the decision was made. He explained if there is another battle to come, he'll approach the situation if and when it happens. But for now, he hopes it can be water under the bridge, and hopes they can move forward together.