Operation Stonegarden Controversy Continues, Napier Visits Border With Trump

Pima County Law Enforcement Partnership Commission meets Monday morning to discuss Operation Stonegarden

Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier

On Friday, Pima County and Pinal County Sheriffs Mark Napier and Mark Lamb joined President Donald Trump on his tour of the border wall in Calexio, California in an effort to bring attention to the crisis along the southern border.

Previously, Napier had opposed the wall calling it a “medieval solution to a modern problem.” At the time, Napier told The New York Times that he didn’t believe the President’s plans for a wall was a “feasible solution.”

“We have a humanitarian crisis which is very clear and compelling,” said Napier of Friday. “We have a compelling crisis of public safety; with human trafficking, drug trafficking and sex trafficking and coming up through the border. This is not make-believe. This is something we live with every day as border sheriffs, so we applaud the efforts of the current administration to secure our border. It’s long overdue and those who would argue that we don’t have a crisis on the southern border, need to come to my world and see what’s really going on. We interdicted 50 pounds of methamphetamine just the other day, and my deputies last month interdicted 15,000 fentanyl pills. My deputies recover about 100 bodies a year in the desert in Pima County, Arizona so please don’t tell me this is not a public safety crisis, not a humanitarian crisis, and not a national security crisis. This is a very serious issue and it’s about time our federal government got serious about it.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Operation Stonegarden program supports collaboration between federal Border Patrol agents and local law enforcement, and provide funds for approved immigration operations and related equipment.

Napier is not only dealing with a crisis on the border, he is dealing with a crisis on the county level as his office once again faces the prospect of losing the federal funds provided by Operation Stonegarden. The Pima County Law Enforcement Partnership Commission meets Monday morning to discuss and possibly make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors on whether to approve acceptance of the Stonegarden grant funds.

On Friday, after his tour with Trump, Napier discussed their visit to the border on KFYI’s James T. Harris radio show.

Because Arizona sheriffs rely on county supervisors to approve their budgets and the funds that comprise it the Pima County Law Enforcement Partnership Commission was formed last year as a concession to Trump’s open border opponents like Isabel Garcia and to provide political cover for supervisors and Napier. The Commission, which was supposed to be representative of County residents, was tasked with making a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors as to whether or not to accept Stonegarden funds in the future.

With a majority of the commissioners displaying openly hostile behavior to commissioners appointed by the two Republican supervisors, Ally Miller and Steve Christy, the Commission’s meetings had become contentious. As a result, Miller and Christy pulled their members off of the Commission.

Miller noted at the time of the removal that the Commission’s recommendation “was not binding and certainly unnecessary” for her decision-making. The Board of Supervisors simply take the recommendation into consideration. Any citizen is able to submit a recommendation to the board of supervisors on any particular vote. It is the sole responsibility of the Board to vote and that authority can not be delegated.

“I’m not willing to legitimize a committee made up of individuals who continually toss out baseless accusations against our law enforcement personnel,” stated Miller at the time. “I can’t, in good conscience, empower a group with members who have an agenda to incite hatred and possibly violence against our first responders who put their lives on the line for us each and every day.”

Initially Christy joined Miller in removing his appointees, but has since changed his tone and is joining Napier in taking advantage of the political cover the Commission provides. In the unlikely event that Commission approves accepting the Stonegarden money, the two men can claim community support, if the Commission rejects the funding the two men can blame it on the Commission.

So far communications between County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, Napier, and the Commission’s chair Kristen Randall have been contentious, with Randall all but accusing Napier of withholding information about the program. Yet, there is talk that Randall will attempt to convince other commissioners to accept the grant in an effort to allow Supervisor Ramon Valadez to save face with his constituents. Although Valadez has opposed the grant funding, his district is comprised of small but power pockets of residents, who support border security and law enforcement.

Both Valadez and Christy will be facing Primary election challengers, and their handling of the Operation Stonegarden issue will become a pivotal factor.

According to documents turned over to commissioners, in FY2016:

Pima County was awarded $1,070,000 in OT/ERE, $80,000 in mileage and $26,208 in travel costs for FFY 2016. The entire awarded amount was utilized resulting in the following: 364 OPSG approved deployments, 4,793 traffic stops, 762 citations issued, 333 misdemeanor arrests, 165 felony arrests, 17 recovered stolen vehicles, 67 narcotics seizures, 4,281 pounds of marijuana seized, 81 pounds of methamphetamine seized, 91 pounds of cocaine seized and 54 grams of heroin seized. 162 illegal aliens were turned over to USBP, 392 intelligence events were generated, 71 vehicles seized, $51,115 in U.S. currency seized and 124 illegal weapons seized. 203,232 miles were driven and 13,908 hours were worked.

According to the Green Valley News, “Despite Napier working to alleviate concerns tied to the grant, such as removing ICE representatives from the county jail and prohibiting asking witnesses and victims of crimes their immigration status,” Christy fears the Stonegarden vote will be the same as last year. “I don’t see any change in the direction that a number of the CLEPC members want to go in, regardless of how accommodating the Sheriff has offered to be.”

In response to the Green Valley News article, Miller wrote on Facebook: “The Board of Supervisors have the sole authority to approve/not approve the Stonegarden grant funding. That authority can NOT be delegated to anyone else. I have voted to approve these funds for the past 6 years. I will continue voting to approve the Stonegarden funding. I have no idea why anyone would feel the need to pander/grovel to this group. Especially after the behavior on the videos and the behavior in the Board of Supervisors hearing room. That is beyond me. Just scratching my head. There are 5 people who vote on the Stonegarden funding and they are: Richard Elias, Ramon Valadez, Steve Christy, Sharon Bronson and Ally Miller.”

In March, the Town of Marana mayor and council approved the acceptance of $308,800 from the Stonegarden grant program as they have every year for the past 10 years.

Pima County Law Enforcement Partnership commissioner Isabel Garcia tries to silence retired Deputy Terry Parish during 2/11/2019 meeting

On February 11, 2019, the Pima County Community Law Enforcement Partnership commissioners discussed bylaws. The discussion revolved around whether commissioners should be eligible to vote in U.S. elections.

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