The Pima County Sheriff is launching an alternative plan to the controversial border security grant -- known as Operation Stonegarden.
KGUN9 has learned the command staff discussed keeping the Board of Supervisors in the dark about the plan.
KGUN 9 obtained an email that sheriff's deputies received this week from Sheriff Mark Napier on his alternative plan for Operation Stonegarden.
In September, the Board of Supervisors voted by a slim majority to drop out of Operation Stonegarden.
In the email, Napier wrote he will begin what he's titled, "The Pima County Rural Safety Initiative Program," in the coming weeks.
Napier said it would operate similar to Stonegarden, but he'd have to find funding to support it within the sheriff department's budget. Napier said he is confident he can do it.
However, KGUN 9 learned the command staff has discussed it would take 900 hours of overtime per month to accomplish. Lieutenant Joe Cameron says union officials and deputies know little about the plan and they are concerned.
"They haven't implemented it, but they're going to do this and pay out all this overtime on top of overtime occurring now," said Cameron.
Documents KGUN 9 obtained show in the Sept. 29 pay period, the sheriff's department logged 4900 hours of overtime, at a cost of $164,000.
Since July, the total overtime hours reached just over 1 million dollars -- more than double the same time frame last year -- $431,000.
We reached out to Sheriff Napier asking for an on-camera interview to address why he didn't inform the Board of Supervisors of his alternative plan.
He denied the interview request, but sent a response instead. He wrote, "Since Stonegarden was rejected I have repeatedly indicated my intent to find another path to provide enhanced public safety to the rural areas of the county. This has not been kept from the BOS in any way. I have publicly spoken about it and at BOS meetings."
I reached out to supervisor Sharon Bronson. She says Napier has spoken publicly about his support of Stonegarden, but she has never received any information about the new plan or that it would "operate similar to Stonegarden."
She continued, "I support that initiative if it means our deputies will be in our rural communities protecting and working for those residents. It is long overdue," but she adds, "if this is an attempt to circumvent the Board of Supervisors decision on Stonegarden, then I find that troubling."
Bronson say she hopes the sheriff "will provide the Board of Supervisors the DAR's (Daily Activity Reports) to assure us full transparency and metrics that support the benefit to public safety and cost effectiveness should he choose to implement this initiative."
We'll continue to investigate.
Napier's full email to staff:
As you know there has been a lot of recent controversy over the Stonegarden Grant Program. We have participated in this program for more than a decade without controversy or opposition. I thought it important to provide all of you with a brief update.
Our grant for 2018 was rejected by the Board of Supervisors. This meant we could not continue to purchase equipment or deploy personnel with that grant funding. I have been steadfast in my support of Stonegarden. We have submitted a grant request for 2019, which we believe will be accepted for funding. If so, it will be presented to the Board for approval. We are trying to address concerns of both the Board and the community to move this forward. We are also exploring other options to remove politics from this grant funding.
This leaves the question of what to do in the meantime. In the coming weeks, we will begin our Pima County Rural Safety Initiative Program. This will be similar to our activities under Stonegarden, but we will have to find funding to support it within our budget. I am confident we can do so. More information about this will be forthcoming.
The bottom line on this issue is simple and clear to me.
1. Our proximity to the international border brings with it transnational crime threats that impact public safety in Pima County and that we have a responsibility to address.
2. Our normal deployment of resources is not sufficient to address these public safety challenges due to the complexity of them and the vast area of our county. Therefore, we must supplement personnel deployment. We would prefer this to be done with federally funded overtime.
3. I believe absolutely in the professionalism and honor of our personnel. We can address public safety threats arising from the border in a constitutional manner without engaging in proactive enforcement of immigration laws or otherwise jeopardizing community trust.
Thanks for everything all of you do every day.