Emails Reveal Absentee Pima County Sheriff

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry at Sheriff Dupnik's retirement ceremony [paid for with RICO funds]

Last Tuesday, the Pima County Board of Supervisors appointed Deputy Chief Chris Nanos to fill the shoes of his boss, retiring Sheriff Clarence Dupnik. Dupnik had announced his intention to retire in January 2015.

Since even before his retirement, it was widely known that Dupnik had checked out as Sheriff even before his re-election in 2012. At the time of that election, only the public was unaware that he was simply running to secure the office for Nanos. The fact that he would name Nanos to fill the spot, once enough time had lapsed in order to avoid a special election, was the worst kept secret in southern Arizona.

Rumor had it that Nanos had been running the Department since at least Dupnik’s his January announcement. Many say that Nanos has been in charge since well before then. In an effort to confirm or refute the rumors, the Arizona Daily Independent filed a FOIA request for “a calendar for Sheriff Clarence Dupnik for the months of February, March April. Also all emails to and from Dupnik and Nanos for the same period,” on May 6, 2015.

After months of waiting and making inquiries as to the delay, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department finally turned over redacted calendars and emails only after the Board of Supervisors’ voted for Nanos as Dupnik’s replacement on July 7, 2015.

Even a cursory glimpse at the calendar confirms the “Dupnik has checked out” rumors. It is very clear that Nanos does the work and Clarence does little more than show up at an occasional award ceremony and does lunch.

Little else is clear, and the documents only raise questions like: Where is the equity everyone in Pima County government always refers when raising taxes?

While Dupnik has his good friend, Richard Boykin, tucked away in the Department earning $99,444.38 a year, and an administrative assistant, Caroline Vargas, earning $82,805 a year, deputies earn far less and have not seen a real raise since 2008.

According to sources, no one really knows for sure what Boykin does other than join Dupnik for lunch now and then. Dupnik got his job from then-Pima County Sheriff Boykin, when Boykin resigned from the office in 1980 to work in an investment-banking firm. Vargas, who works in a Kevlar-free position earns over $20,000 more a year than the average deputy, who puts their life on the line every day they work.

Not long ago, the Board of Supervisors were advised by deputies that the Department was losing well trained and experienced officers due to the fact that inconsistent pay adjustments had created inequities within the Department. Department leaders asked the Board to address pay adjustments that affect a large number of deputies and corrections officers.

The pay adjustments referred to in recruiting advertisements are needed, according to deputies, in order to maintain a competent and experienced work force. As it stands, an experienced deputy would make as a convenience store manager.

One deputy told the Board last month, “We are aware of the documents presented to you and we believe that this is an issue that requires your immediate attention. If this issue is ignored for another year, it will only cost tax payers more money. Two years ago, this issue could have been resolved for approximately four million dollars. Now, the BOS are looking at an expense of approximately six million dollars to correct. With further delay, this cost only increases.”

The deputy was referring to something called compression. According to USLegal.com:

“Pay compression is the situation that occurs when there is only a small difference in pay between employees regardless of their skills or experience. It is also referred to as salary compression. Pay compression is the result of the market-rate for a given job outpacing the increases historically given by the organization to high tenure employees. Therefore, newcomers can only be recruited by offering them as much or more than senior professionals.”

The Pima County Board of Supervisors, with the assistance of Dupnik and at the insistence of County administrator Chuck Huckelberry, has squandered millions of dollars on unnecessary open land while claiming poverty prevents them from correcting the situation.

Documents presented to the Board last month show that full decompression would cost $5,681,171.82. Half decompression would cost $3,231,961.03, and would bring all deputies and correctional officers to three steps up. If they completed decompression in Fiscal Year 2016, it would cost another $2,449,210.79.

The figures still do not bring the deputies up to the rates other agencies receive, but it is better than nothing. And doing nothing, no matter how beautiful southern Arizona is, will result in even more deputies leaving and taking their experience with them.

The irony is that Dupnik has collected his $100,823.84 a year salary for doing virtually nothing, including not going before the Board of Supervisors to demand equity for his deputies.

Milwaukee’s Sheriff David Clarke is most famous for going toe-to-toe against Milwaukee County administrator Chris Abele on a regular basis in defense of his constituents and his deputies. Dupnik, on the other hand, is famous only for his attack on constituents and neglect of his deputies.

Dupnik’s era will be over at the end of the month. We will see if Chief Nanos will adopt Dupnik’s do nothing approach, or if he will lead like Clarke and fight for his deputies and the respect his constituents. If we see him publically stand up to Huckelberry and demand that the decompression process begins, then, and only then will we know that the Dupnik era is a thing of the past.

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