County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry is proposing several ways to fill vacant and absent seats on the Community Law Enforcement Partnership Commission, which has been having a difficult time getting a quorum.
The 15-member CLEPC makes recommendations to the Board of Supervisors on whether to approve or reject grants intended for law enforcement. Ultimately, decisions to accept grants or turn them away remains with the county's supervisors.
However, CLEPC has had issues with forming a quorum with members consistently absent and seats left vacant. It's supposed to meet 9-12 times a year, but six meetings, including August's, have been canceled so far this year.
Supervisor Ally Miller pulled all three of her appointees, Supervisor Steve Christy has instructed his members not to attend and Supervisor Sharon Bronson has two vacancies on the board.
In order for CLEPC to have a quorum, the 15-person commission needs eight members present. Between vacancies from Bronson and Miller along with three absent members from Christy there are only seven members available which prevents the commission from holding a meeting.
Christy and Miller made their decisions to either pull their appointees or instruct them not to participate on the commission because they said several members on CLEPC are anti-law enforcement..
The commission has been in the spotlight for refusing some law enforcement grants. Most notably the commission recommended the board reject the Stonegarden grant last year and the board followed CLEPC's recommendation. The grant provides federal funds to local law enforcement while promoting cooperation with federal immigration enforcement agencies.
Although CLEPC again recommended the board reject Stonegarden this year, the board ended up accepting the $1.8 million grant in May, voting 3-2 with conditions that $200,000 go to humanitarian efforts for asylum seekers and $256,000 to offsetting the costs of accepting the grant.
Huckelberry outlined his suggestions to Supervisor Ramón Valadez in a memo, indicating they originated as a result of a request from the supervisor.
Huckelberry suggested allowing the full board to appoint members to seats left vacant by supervisors or to replace members who do not attend meetings and cause cancellations.
According to the memo, the Clerk of the Board would advertise for applications if a supervisor fails to appoint members from their district to CLEPC within 30 days of a vacancy. The applications would be forwarded to the supervisor with the vacancy and if no appointment is made within 30 days, the applications will be put before the board and an appointment will be made to fill the vacancy.
The same process would be used to replace members who fail to attend three consecutive meetings.
Huckelberry also recommended a civil deputy county attorney attend CLEPC meetings to ensure compliance with open meeting laws or recordings be made for review by the deputy county attorney if unavailable.
Christy said the recommendations are an overreach by Huckelberry and CLEPC operating principles are the exclusive discretion of the board.
"This, I think, is really a very heavy handed overreach of a suggestion by the county administrator," Christy said.
Valadez does not see the suggestions Huckelberry provided as an overreach.
"If you read the memo this is based entirely on a discussion between (Huckelberry) and I," Valadez said. "It would be an overreach if (Huckelberry) tried to enact it. Yes, that would be an overreach."
Like Miller, Christy pulled his members because the decisions CLEPC makes are non-binding and not necessary to the board making a decision on grants.
"At last Tuesday's board meeting there were probably four or five grants to the Sheriff's office that theoretically could have or perhaps would have been directed first to CLEPC, but never made it to CLEPC because of the lack of a quorum, but they went before the board anyway and they all passed," Christy said. "So it just highlights the unnecessary formation of CLEPC when it comes back to the board anyway."
The recommendations from CLEPC may be non-binding, but Valadez said the commission does serve a purpose and the suggestions provided by Huckelberry may be a way to bring more representation from all the districts back to the discussion.
"We need to make sure that all other districts in Pima County are represented and right now that's being blocked," he said. "We are putting this together to make sure that we can have that discussion about making those changes to ensure that every district has a voice, every side is expressed. Really this is about making sure that there are different opinions and they should all be at the table."
Huckleberry's recommendations can't be acted on until it goes before the Board of Supervisors. Valadez said he is likely to add the recommendations to the board's next agenda.
Miller said even if Huckleberry's suggestions are approved by the board, she still won't appoint anyone.