The Pima County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday disbanded a law-enforcement advisory group that had been enmeshed in controversy for more than a year. 

The board voted, 4-1, to shut down the Community Law Enforcement Partnership Commission; chairman Richard Elías was the dissenting vote.  

CLEPC has been plagued with inaction in 2019, holding just four meetings and failing to make a quorum for several others. 

Supervisors Ally Miller and Steve Christy had refused to allow their appointees to participate in the commission, claiming many members appointed by other supervisors were anti-law enforcement activists. Miller pulled her three appointees and declined to fill the vacancies; Christy directed his three appointees not to attend meetings.

Those actions came after the commission recommended not receiving an Operation Stonegarden grant that the county had accepted for more than a decade. The supervisors, after tumultuous meetings and a lot of back and forth, ultimately voted not to accept the grant last year. However, the grant was approved in May after Democratic Supervisor Sharon Bronson sided with Republicans Christy and Miller to approve it during a contentious meeting that saw activists turn on her.

The grant, from the Department of Homeland Security, reimburses the Sheriff's Department for expenses related to crime involving border issues.

Christy said Tuesday that dissolving CLEPC was a step in the right direction since the commission could not get any traction or carry out its original mission.

But Elías said it's wrong to squelch public input and the vote to end CLEPC shows there are some voices the Board of Supervisors don't want to hear. 

New panel forming

Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier announced before Tuesday's vote that he is accepting applications for a new advisory committee to provide community feedback. Supervisors had turned down the idea of appointing people to the new board. 

The Sheriff's Citizen Advisory Committee will be made up of 12 members appointed for a year who will report directly to Napier. Without the supervisors' involvement, the members will be selected by Napier and the Sheriff's Department.

Chief Deputy Byron Gwaltney said SCAC will not be involved in reviewing grants for the Sheriff's Department. The new committee's goal will be the same as Napier's goal for an advisory committee, which was rejected 4-1 by the board during their meeting Sept. 17, Gwaltney said.

"Same goals, just so that (Napier) can have a direct relationship with representatives of the community," he said. "To clean the process up so that it can actually be a useful tool to maintain our relationship with the community and that this committee will report directly to the sheriff and there wouldn't be a Board of Supervisors involvement."

While the board would not have any direct involvement, Gwaltney said Napier is prepared to discuss and share findings with other elected officials. SCAC's goal is to get feedback from the community to improve relationships between the Sheriff's Department and those they serve, he said.

The Sheriff's Department has opened the application process through its website. SCAC will begin holding meetings in January, but Gwaltney said there is no timeline set before next year as to when Napier will make final selections. As to whether the meetings will be open to the public, Gwaltney said that is the goal but it might depend on the topic.

Elías said Napier's new committee is probably a step in the right direction but that transparency is lacking.

"There's no public meetings, there's no public input," Elías said. "This group of people who are going to be chosen by him solely and there's no audit for that group of people to investigate things independently. I don't think it's going to be very helpful, but at least it's a start, maybe, in the right direction."

Napier had said he wanted the Board of Supervisors involved to lend credibility and provide countywide representation.

Christy said SCAC will have all the same credibility it needs under Napier as it would have had with the board selecting its members.

"The sheriff is fully capable of picking and choosing his own membership lists," Christy said. "I'm sure he'll have a lot of applicants to choose from. He'll also have a lot of credible models to choose from, from around the country."

With the board out and selection left in Napier's hands, Gwaltney said getting a diverse geographical representation of the county is still the goal despite the selection process being done by the Sheriff's Department only.

"The application that is online he will use to vet motivations for people coming on board," Gwaltney said. "It's part of how they express themselves, do they want to have a viable role and really help to look at how we conduct business. If they wish to actively participate in dialogue, I think that is really the tipping point that moves it forward."

Jorge Encinas | 520-547-9732

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