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Union claims Pima County sheriff's actions fall outside state statute

Posted at 10:16 PM, Feb 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-28 00:16:27-05

A Pima County commission is entering uncharted waters as it's now forced to follow state law.

The 5 members of the Law Enforcement Merit System Council discovered they're in charge of determining pay classifications of sheriff's deputies and recommending pay for those jobs, but they didn't know it.      

They met for the first time to begin the process of reviewing the sheriff's new pay package. But some deputies say there's push back from the sheriff on the council's authority -- a claim the sheriff denies.

The landmark meeting included sheriff's deputies, union leaders and the attorney representing them, Steve Portell.

They were invited to discuss the state statute that the council is obligated to follow. Chair Georgia Brousseau told KGUN9, "We were unaware of this requirement and I've been here since 1991 and never heard about it, but it's in the law. We are obligated to follow the law. We're trying to gather information to help us plan an appropriate recommendation to the Board of Supervisors for appropriate payment in these areas."

She said that will take months since there's a high learning curve and the council has yet to receive the sheriff's new package to review. Portell tells KGUN9 the union hasn't seen the plan either. He said, "He's insisted the deputies get behind his pay package by March 9th. He's set a deadline for the associations. He's doing this outside the democratic process. He's doing it outside the statute."

In the meeting, Portell told the council he's concerned Napier is not waiting for the council's recommendation. "Yesterday, the sheriff made a statement to his department at a meeting in his office that he did not recognize LEMSC's authority," said Portell.

KGUN9 asked Brousseau for her response, "First, I would need to hear that from the sheriff. Second, I would recommend the sheriff read the law."

We reached out to the sheriff this afternoon, who tells us he did not say that. He said "the authority and scope of the council is clear in the law" and he only objected to the meeting held today.

He said he sent an email to LEMSC on Sunday indicating his concern about the meeting (Tuesday) and the PCSD's willingness to work with them in the future. He said, "The March 9 deadline is simply for the associations to indicate support for working together on compensation reform or for them to elect to pursue their own plans.  The deadline is necessary only to give us enough time to effectively work together on the details that are important to all of us with respect to a merit based approach."