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Bullying Probe: Who holds Pima County Sheriff accountable?

Posted at 10:17 PM, Nov 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-04 18:02:35-04

A lawsuit involving the Pima County Sheriff's Department has raised the question -- who holds the sheriff accountable regarding claims made against him by department staff?

That question surfaced after the union president accused Sheriff Chris Nanos of workplace bullying.

Sgt. Kevin Kubitskey, the union president, has a lengthy list of workplace complaints covering two years against Sheriff Chris Nanos charging him with managing by threats and intimidation. "They've added up and it's quite severe," said Kubitskey.

The final report by a County Human Resources investigator reveals Kubiskey reported Nanos told a large crowd of union members a year ago that he "yells at Kevin all the time."

And when the two spoke after the meeting, Kubitskey reported Nanos assaulted him, he "jabbed him over and over" in his shoulder while the two argued about the union's possible legal action over wage issues. "He told me that if I push forward with membership and the attorney and file a lawsuit against the county, that I would be done," said Kubitskey.

Nanos had also sent out a department-wide email singling out Kubitskey as a "disruptive force" and "can no longer work with this office on any labor issue."

When the County HR investigator interviewed Nanos, the sheriff said he didn't assault Kubinskey and had apologized to him, but Nanos also admitted that "it's inappropriate for anybody to put their hands on anybody."

And when the investigator asked Nanos about the "disruptive force" comment and that county email is a public record, Nanos replied, "I don't care. You get what you get with me."

The investigator asked Nanos if he considered county policies when he sent email messages on a county system, Nanos replied, "I don't consider them at all." "I don't even know that those are."

The investigator concluded Nanos did not assault Kubitskey, but he did bully him. And he also recommended Nanos "ensure compliance" with all  county policies.

Two superiors reviewed the report and signed it in mid-July, but three more signatures were needed and the report sat for three months. Kubitskey sued claiming the county withheld the documents and a day before it was released the Deputy County administrator, Tom Burke, wrote "He did not concur."

And in a memo, Burke said the investigation was "not conducted in a neutral fashion" and the "investigator was biased in his line of questioning." In addition to that, Burke "didn't believe the county HR has the authority to investigate complaints against elected officials.Elected officials are not employees of the Board of Supervisors and are not subject to discipline or dismissal by the Board.

Is that true?

We reached out to County Administrator Chuck Huckberry, but he would not comment on the complaint.

We also reached out to the Pima County Attorney's Office, the civil legal adviser for the county. They checked into it but told me there is no public legal opinion on the oversight of elected officials, like the sheriff, so they can't answer those questions.

So unlike city police chiefs who must report to city officials, it seems the county sheriff is under no real oversight at all.

We'll continue to investigate and follow the developments.