A historic decision for the largest union in the Pima County Sheriff's Department that could impact public safety for years to come. Deputies voted -- overwhelmingly -- for the right to sit at the table with the Board of Supervisors.
This unprecedented vote has been decades in the making. The union leaders wanted their voices heard and voted for the right to bypass the sheriff -- and meet and confer with the Board of Supervisors. Deputies won by a landslide -- 166 to 11 -- a 16-to-1 margin.
Attorney Steve Portell, who represents the union, said, "We're finally bringing the history back to what a normal practice should be. It's a historic vote -- it's never been done before for the deputies so we now we can be a counter-balance to abuses at the top of the sheriff's department.
Eric Cevantez, president oif the Pima County Deputy Sheriff's Association, calls it a new day.
"The public gets to hear our side of the story when it comes to the sheriff's department and their compensation and benefits -- instead of hearing it from the command staff,"
Frustration with command staff intensified after Sheriff Mark Napier took over the reigns. Napier had promised to fix staffing shortages, the pay plan, and eroding morale when he took office -- but he cut the budget by millions to -- in his words -- be more fiscally responsible.
The union took legal action -- arguing the command staff decisions have led to critically low staffing levels, off the chart overtime, and dissension in the ranks.
For help -- the union turned to Board of Supervisor Chair Richard Elias -- who has a long union history. "You know valerie -- i grew up in a union household -- father was a member of a union for 64 years. I was a union steward," he said.
Elias says he supported the sheriff's union because people have the right to organize. "Sheriff Napier is relatively new. And with the past sheriff's we've had there's been little interest in working with the sheriff's association and giving them that meet and confer or working with them in that manner. So kinda a fresh page. Time to make sure we start doing things in a better way," said Elias.
The union's official meet and confer report in now in the hands of the Board of Supervisors. The board is expected to vote on it November 20th.