Humbled. That’s the word Chris Nanos used Tuesday to describe seeing his face on a billboard near the Pima County Sheriff’s Department on Monday night with the words, “We need a new leader. We need Nanos.”
Under those words: “Sponsored by employees of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.”
Nanos, a Democrat, was sheriff for less than 18 months before losing the 2016 election to Republican Mark Napier by a 56 to 44 percent margin. The defeat marked the end of a long year that saw a senior colleague commit suicide, two law enforcement organizations endorse Napier, and with the indictment of his chief deputy, Chris Radtke, involving the misuse of RICO funds.
Nanos said he doesn’t know who put up the sign but he isn’t exactly surprised.
“I’m probably to blame for some of this,” he said, explaining he’s never said he wouldn’t run again.
“(People) always ask and I’ve always told them that the only way I’d run is if the department got behind me because I don’t see who is going to run to be a leader of an organization that doesn’t want you,” Nanos said.
However, in a 2016 interview with the Green Valley News shortly before he left office, Nanos replied, “No, absolute no,” when asked if he’d ever run for sheriff again.
Although he spends most of his time traveling and golfing, Nanos said he met with various boards and associations over the summer and with the corrections officers’ union in September. He said he told them the same thing he’s told his friends. But recently, he said, people have been urging him to run.
Napier has his hands full. He’s named in two lawsuits filed by staff over wages, and a lawyer representing deputies and corrections officers in the cases said the sheriff and others read privileged communication. A judge has ordered a special master to investigate.
In October, the PCSD union rendered a “no confidence” vote against Napier and asked him not to run for re-election next year.
He also launched a criminal investigation into one of his deputies last month after the release of an eight-minute video of the deputy wrestling a 15-year-old boy with no arms and no legs while trying to arrest him for disorderly conduct. More recently, an inmate died after a “use-of-force encounter” with corrections officers.
While Nanos said he isn’t sure how many people are behind the billboard, the discord within the department doesn’t come as a revelation.
“It’s not surprising to me because you have a number of incidents that have gone on, alleged bullying and cronyism and they’re not very transparent, hiding FOIA requests,” Nanos said. “And now you have a special master investigation going on and then on top of that you have a vote of no confidence... Is it systemic? Is it cultural? I don’t know.”
Now that the billboard is up, Nanos said he has some “soul-searching” to do. Plus, he needs to discuss it with his wife.
“I am humbled by it and I will give it some consideration and maybe in the next week or two I’ll decide if I’m going to run again or not,” he said.