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Pima County sheriff faces more scrutiny over proposed pay plan

Posted at 7:18 PM, Jan 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-23 21:18:35-05

Sheriff Mark Napier and Pima County continue to face more scrutiny and another potential lawsuit.

It appears for the first time in recent history, a Pima County oversight council has requested information from the Sheriff to review his proposed department pay structure.

Sheriff Mark Napier vowed -- before being elected -- to fix the decades old Step Program, which promised annual raises to deputies and corrections officers -- but didn't happen.

A year later, Napier informed deputies in a December 11th memo the Step Program is dead and never coming back. Napier plans to propose a military-style pay package to the Board of Supervisors. 

But attorney Steve Portell, who filed a notice of claim on behalf of 600 union deputies and corrections officers, says Napier is not following state law. "The December 11th memo from Sheriff Napier clearly says we potentially meaning the county administrator have the power to create pay systems outside of this statutory framework, which is wrong," said Portell. 

Statutorily, the Pima County Law Enforcement Merit System Council has oversight, but Portell believes the members may have been unaware of its role. "The Dec. 11th memo is so egregious that the notice of claim that then followed forced LEMSC to take this action. That's the clear indication," said Portell, "the reason for the statutory framework exists is so elected officials like sheriffs can be isolated from using pay to exercise a greater level of control or influence over their subordinates in this case the deputies."

The commission wrote to Sheriff Napier. 

In accordance with the obligations established in section 38-1003 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, the Pima County Law Enforcement Merit System Council respectfully requests that you provide to the Council, for its review, consideration, and approval or recommendation, as required, a complete copy of the Pima County Sheriff's Department classification system and compensation plan, both as they were in effect as of January 1, 2017, and any modifications proposed by you or on your behalf. 

"And this is the first year it's going to happen," said Portell.
We reached out to the sheriff. He sent this statement: 

"We look forward to working with the Merit Commission toward sustainable merit-based compensation reform.  The current plan is conceptual in nature and still has many details to iron out.  We will communicate our conceptual framework to the Merit Commission soon.  We also look forward to learning more about the Commission's past efforts to support/develop compensation plans so we can perhaps use some of those ideas as we refine our concept." 

Portell says he plans to address another issue of possible on-call overtime pay violations that could lead to another notice of claim.

Meantime, the clock is winding down. Pima County has three weeks to come to an agreement or face a lawsuit.