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Sheriff's Dep't GV commander claims political payback in demotion by Napier

New Pima County sheriff maintains move was 'not at all politically motivated'

The commander of the Green Valley substation of the Pima County Sheriff's Department, on the job less than four months, was demoted Sunday and transferred to the Foothills District.

But Terry Parish said Tuesday he intends to fight the demotion and $30,000 pay cut.

"I don't want to call this political retribution, I don't," Parish said Tuesday. "But I think the evidence shows that I am not being treated fairly."

Former Sheriff Chris Nanos agrees, but newly elected Sheriff Mark Napier maintains the move was “not at all politically motivated.”

According to a letter signed Jan. 1 by Napier, Parish was involuntarily demoted to sergeant because he failed to successfully complete his probationary period as lieutenant.

However, Parish and Nanos said Parish had essentially successfully completed the probation — due to end Jan. 2 — because he was off duty Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

Parish was an outspoken supporter of Nanos during a contentious election, and calls the demotion political. According to county policy, employees demoted for failing probation cannot appeal.

Parish, who became the Green Valley commander in mid-September, said none of his supervising officers expressed any concerns about his job performance.

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"In my 21 years with the department I've never seen us demote someone without that person knowing what the standards were that they weren't meeting or without them having had an opportunity to address their issues," Parish said.

But Napier said Wednesday that Parish was demoted from lieutenant to sergeant and reassigned because two captains and a bureau chief expressed concerns about “his general performance as a commander.”

Parish said he received two Letters of Counseling this past year, but they are low-level letters of discipline that are eventually removed from officers' files. They are considered so minor deputies cannot appeal them, he said.

One of the letters was written after Parish responded to an email from the Pima County Deputy Sheriff's Association using a department-issued cell phone. The email invited members of the PCSD to attend an event with potential sheriff's candidates, including Napier.

In his response, Parish said he voiced his concerns about Napier, given experiences he's had with him.

"I should've sent my response from my own personal emails," Parish said.

Parish also campaigned for Nanos off-duty and was a vocal supporter of Nanos on his personal Facebook page.

"Everything I said, I said in good faith," Parish said. "Everything on Facebook was completely true and within my First Amendment rights to say."

If Napier demoted him because of his pro-Nanos activities, Parish said his civil rights were violated.

"I'm not going to judge the man's heart, but I honestly don't see the other side of this," Parish said. "This has come as a complete shock to me and I'm still incredulous about the whole thing."

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“To argue that this was related to politics is simply erroneous,” Napier said. “Yes, the timing is awkward, but to do anything else would’ve been politically motivated and the wrong thing to do.”

The former lieutenant said he was gratified Napier agreed to transfer him to the Foothills District since it is closer to his home than the Rincon District, which was where he was originally slated to go.

Parish's second Letter of Counseling stemmed from an incident where he entered a home without a warrant and with his gun drawn. Parish said he was investigating a theft case when he went to a home associated with the suspect and found a door had been forced open. When no one answered repeated yells, Parish said he and a fellow deputy entered the home only to find an irate homeowner — the suspect's father — inside.

"I did what I believe is standard procedure," Parish said.

Parish said he will appeal Napier's decision to the Pima County Merit Commission, but is also considering a federal civil rights lawsuit.

Read more, including comments from former Sheriff Chris Nanos, at GVNews.com.

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1 comment on this story

1
1770 comments
Jan 4, 2017, 9:50 pm
-1 +1

Anyone who has looked at a PCSD org chart can see that organization is far too top-heavy. One of Napier’s campaign promises was to fix that. Perhaps this is just step one in keeping his promise.

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Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.com

Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier was among a group of county officials formally sworn into office Tuesday morning.