The Pima County Sheriff's Department union rendered a "no confidence" vote against Sheriff Mark Napier on Wednesday, and will ask him not to run for re-election next year.
The Pima County Deputy Sheriff's Association endorsed Napier in 2016, but he has not fulfilled many of his campaign promises, said Kevin Kubitskey, an association spokesman and past president.
Kubitskey, a Democrat said intends to run against the Republican sheriff in 2020.
Napier assured deputies and corrections officers he would address serious pay issues that have been plaguing the department and that he would end cronyism, Kubitskey said, but both issues have only grown worse. Kubitskey said about 300 of the department's 400 deputies are members of the association.
Napier expressed disappointment at the vote in a statement Friday, saying he wished the union had come to him "so that we might work together in a professional, productive and collaborative manner."
He pointed out the department has more than 1,400 employees.
"It might be prudent to ask for more specifics about the nature of the vote and what percentage of department employees participated," Napier wrote. "They seem to assert this is representative of a more significant audience than I believe to be the case."
Napier pointed out the group also cast no confidence votes against former sheriffs Clarence Dupnik and Chris Nanos.
In an interview Friday on Bill Buckmaster's radio show, Napier said, "My sense is the department is not in a rebellion or mass lack of support of me."
Association president Eric Cervantes did not return phone messages Friday.
"This is a predictable and repeated pattern of the dysfunctional address of concerns that could otherwise be more productively worked on and potentially resolved," Napier wrote.
The sheriff said the department has made "significant strides with compensation" over the past three years. Although there is room for improvement when it comes to compensation, Napier said the PCSD now has among the highest entry-level salaries for deputies and corrections officers in the state.
During the Buckmaster show, Napier pointed out that the "step" compensation program was abolished by the County Board of Supervisors before he was elected. He said he attempted to create a more business-like model to replace the step system that would have compensated employees based on merit. That model was rejected by deputies, Napier said.
He focused on entry-level pay because the department was struggling with recruitment, an issue faced by many agencies across the nation, Napier said.
It's Napier's focus on entry-level positions that has demoralized the rest of the department, Kubitskey said.
"He basically created a recruitment raise to try and draw people into the department and what happened is those zero- to three-year deputies are making a lot more than our eight- to 10-year deputies," he said.
Napier said compression — where those hired in at a higher wage are now closer to those who have been in the department a while — is an unavoidable situation, but "we can address these things if we work more cooperatively together."
Kubitskey also alleged that Napier has failed to fire a number of people Kubitskey believes were tied to former Chief Deputy Christopher Radtke, who was sentenced in federal court to one year of probation, a $3,000 fine and 100 hours of community service after pleading guilty to three misdemeanor counts of theft of government property in 2017. Radtke was indicted following a yearlong FBI investigation that revealed the misuse of $500,000 in RICO money by the department.
The indictment alleged Radtke conspired “with persons known and unknown” over five years to circumvent the rules regarding funds generated when law enforcement agencies seize assets during criminal investigations.
Those person's unknown remain with the department, Kubitskey said.
"Everyone pretty much stayed in the same positions as before and just because there weren't indictments doesn't mean that they were innocent by any means," he said.
Worse yet, Napier is often traveling to Washington, D.C., and conferences and those people have been left to run the department, he said.
In his statement, Napier said he doesn't believe it's a coincidence the no confidence vote came just after "a key member of the association" filed paperwork announcing his decision to run for sheriff next year.
Kubitskey, who has been with the department more than 20 years, said he recently took out papers to run for sheriff because he is so disappointed in Napier's performance.
"I'm running because of exactly what's going on right now. The fact the union's done a no confidence vote," Kubitskey, 46, said. "It's not shocking to me that this is happening. For three years we've been constantly reminding the sheriff and command staff about the campaign promises that were written down by Sheriff Napier and distributed and he hasn't held up his bargain, he hasn't held up to doing that."
Napier, in his statement, said there have been a lot of things to celebrate over the last few years.
Overall crime has decreased "significantly," and the department has ended its last two fiscal years with a combined surplus of nearly $11 million, he said. In addition, the department is "more engaged with all segments of the community than we ever have been."
"We are making real and substantive progress to reach even higher levels of performance and service to our citizens. While some may want to stop progress, we need to stay the course and find more positive ways to address difficult internal issues," Napier wrote.