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Nanos attacks critics, calls Carmona a 'blatant liar'

Beset by accusations that he is responsible for a "broken leadership culture," at the Pima County Sheriff's Department, Sheriff Chris Nanos defended himself during a press conference on Wednesday. 

Wearing a white button-down shirt rather than his uniform, Nanos spoke for about 13 minutes in front of a brace of reporters, and said that while "perhaps mistakes have been made," these mistakes were part of a learning curve. 

"I am simply a cop, not a politician," Nanos said, alluding to a column written by Arizona Daily Star's Tim Steller, who wrote on Tuesday that Nanos lacks the political skills or vision to run the department. 

In the last week, Nanos' tenure as sheriff has been challenged by a group of deputies, who held two press conferences, one on Thursday and another on Tuesday. 

The deputies argued that Nanos is at the heart of a leadership culture that uses intimidation and retaliation against critics. 

Led by Dr. Richard Carmona, former U.S. Surgeon General and a 30-year veteran of the department, this group has said that Nanos and other managers "hammered" deputies for complaining about problems in the department. 

Deputy Bob Muzzy said on Tuesday that he was sent back to patrol "against his will" after he reported that training officers were discriminating against female recruits and recruits over 40 by raising the bar for requirements so they would fail. After Muzzy turned in several pages of notes regarding the problem, he was sent back to patrol, costing him nearly $10,000 in overtime and on-call pay, Muzzy said.

At the same time, Nanos had to announce Monday that Chief Deputy Chris Radtke had been indicted for allegedly misusing RICO funds following an FBI investigation. 

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On Sept. 28, a grand jury indicted Radtke on seven charges, one of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and six of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds. Court documents in the case were sealed until Wednesday.

Radtke is allegedly responsible for attempting to move more than $500,000 in funds, in at least 10 instances, including checks and credit card transactions used to reimburse a special awards fund, restaurant bills, and the construction of Santa sleigh for the agency's annual awards banquet. 

Among the charges were for an artist, who allegedly received $300 for artwork on a chalkboard at the cafe inside the sheriff's office, and $599 used to buy two model airplanes by Radtke. 

Nanos said that Radtke's indictment had "shaken the department to its core," but that he had taken "decisive action" and met with every member of the department who handles or oversees funding sources. Nanos said that he had direct these officials to complete an "an immediate and comprehensive review" to ensure that funds were handled correctly. 

And, he will continue to monitor those processes personally, Nanos said. 

Nanos said that he understood the responsibility handed to him when he replaced longtime Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who retired last July. 

"Well over a year ago, I stood in front of the Board of Supervisors, completely overwhelmed by the pride swelling in my heart, when I was handed the keys to a well-polished, fine-tuned, respected professional and progressive police organization," Nanos said. 

"I cannot and will not tarnish this office," Nanos said. "Nor will I allow anyone else to do the same without consequence." 

Nanos turned his attention to Carmona, calling him a "blatant liar" who has "anger issues."

Carmona, he said has been "nothing more to this organization but a problem" and that it was "disheartening" that he was attacking the legacy of former Sheriff Dupnik. 

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Nanos said that Carmona came to the sheriff's department after he ran Kino Hospital "into the ground" and that Dupnik allowed him to "lavish his resume as a deputy and then as a department head." 

"He was appointed Surgeon General with no thanks to Dupnik, who made Dr. Carmona what he is today," Nanos said.

Nanos also challenged one of Carmona's claims that he attended a meeting with senior commanders. 

"Dr. Carmona has never, ever sat in any high level meeting in this organization's history," Nanos said. Carmona has only been to the building 11 times in the past two years, Nanos said. "Seven times was to the gym across the street, the other four times was here to take myself and Sheriff Dupnik both to lunch." 

"Carmona felt slighted that retired Sheriff Dupnik did not hand the keys to this organization over to him," Nanos said. And, Carmona "harrased and hassled Sheriff Dupnik" for the job of chief deputy, Nanos claimed.

Nanos accused Carmona of making a deal with Mark Napier, a Republican who is currently challenging Nanos for sheriff in Pima County. 

"He speaks of cronyism, but what deal did he make?" Nanos asked. 

Nanos also refuted arguments that he had interfered with investigations, including the suicide of PCSD Chief of Staff Bradley Gagnepain. 

"The truth is a high-ranking member of my department and a close friend committed suicide," Nanos said. "I arrived on scene, spent less than 10 minutes across the street—never entering that scene—and the rest of the night I spent consoling family members and friends." 

Nanos said that accusations that protocols were not followed or that detectives were "chased from the scene" was simply false. 

He also attacked the idea that another agency should have handled the investigation, noting that in previous instances, the department was in charge of other similar investigations "and Carmona knows that," he said. 

Nanos also attacked Carmona for saying that he "knew the practice" of working on a homicide or suicide case, saying that Carmona had never worked either, despite saying that he was assigned to the homicide unit. 

"Let it be known that Dr. Carmona was never assigned, never worked, a homicide or suicide in his entire life," Nanos said. 

He went further, saying that Carmona was "barely anything more than a wannabe deputy." 

Nanos reiterated his argument that the criticism from Carmona was part of a campaign designed to be political, saying that last week's press conference was timed with the release of mail-in ballots and that organizers made sure to "contact every media outlet" they could. 

He also accused organizers of putting demands on media outlets to release the story before the release of mail-in ballots. 

"Every other news agency, except KGUN 9, saw this story for what it was," Nanos said. "Baseless, faceless, a hit-piece to be used for nothing more than an attempt to influence an election." 

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He also said that Carmona and Napier had been contacting command staff, deputies, friends and supporters telling them they were on the wrong side. 

After he read his prepared statement, Nanos refused to answer questions, telling one reporter: "I'm sorry, I've gotta be a politician now. It was nicer when I could just answer questions." 

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos speaks to reporters during a press conference on Wednesday.