The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to record and broadcast commission meetings going forward, but that decision itself won't repair a rift that has opened up over what has become a controversial citizens panel.
The board amended, then approved, a request by Supervisor Steve Christy to record and broadcast all board and commission going forward on the “county's cable access channel, Internet streaming and Facebook Live.”
Christy's original request focused just on the Community Law Enforcement Partnership Commission, which was formed last year to consider federal Stonegarden grants for the Pima County Sheriff's Department. Supervisor Ramon Valadez, a Democrat, asked that the broadcasts be extended to all county boards and commissions.
Christy put the issue on the agenda after months of tumultuous meetings that have split the 15-member CLEPC panel along what largely have been seen as pro- and anti-law enforcement lines. Several of the members are immigration and political activists who have spoken out publicly against Border Patrol and Sheriffs operations; others are retired law enforcement officers.
The commission's original purpose was to make recommendations to the County Board on federal Stonegarden grants, which the supervisors rejected in September despite 12 years of accepting them. The board then changed the panel's focus to reviewing all law enforcement grants headed for the Sheriff's Department.
In February, Christy and Supervisor Ally Miller, both Republicans, pulled their appointees from the commission, saying in a joint statement that, “It is time to end the unfounded attacks on the law enforcement community."
Despite Tuesday's vote, Christy and Miller said they will not immediately return their appointees to the CLEPC panel.
Christy said he would consider it if there was more structure, on-topic discussion and an adherence to Robert’s Rules of Order. He also said in an interview that he wants representation from the County Attorney’s office on the commission. He added that public attacks on law enforcement and his appointees must stop.
Miller has no plans to send appointees back to the commission and said she does not need its recommendations to decide whether to move forward with a grant.
“I’ve already dismissed the two appointees I had on the commission and withdrawn them from the commission,” she said. “I’m not going to participate in it.”
Miller attributes the commission's failure to a bias against law enforcement.
“I just think it is a commission that has an agenda,” she said. “They don’t have expertise to review grants.”
Board Chairman Richard Elías, a Democrat, disagrees that CLEPC has an agenda. He said heated meetings stem from the contentious issues the panel deals with.
“These are very difficult, sensitive discussions that we have to have as a community and I’m not afraid of those conversations,” Elías said in an interview Tuesday. “I encourage them to have them.”
Elías said Christy and Miller are stifling the conversation when the opposite is what's needed.
“I think that they have good shot at being very successful,” Elías said. “I really hope that Supervisor Miller and Supervisor Christy come to their senses and recognize that dialogue is a good thing.”
Bronson, a Democrat, said Tuesday broadcasting the meetings will allow people to see for themselves what happens. Miller agreed.
“I think it’s good that the county, and I agree with the meeting today, they should always video tape every single meeting and put that information out for the public to watch,” she said.
Valadez didn't return a call for comment.
Jorge Encinas 520-547-9732