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Sheriff announces appointments to Citizens Advisory Committee

The members of a new 12-member advisory committee were announced by County Sheriff Mark Napier, and they include some members of the controversial Community Law Enforcement Partnership Commission that was disbanded last year.

Napier announced in October that he would set up his own group, as the Pima County Board of Supervisors stood down a law-enforcement advisory group that had been enmeshed in controversy for more than a year. Supervisors turned down the idea of appointing people to the new board.

"The objective of the committee is to provide input, voice concerns, and to ensure and maintain open communications between the community and the Sheriff's Department," the Republican sheriff said last year.

The members of the new Sheriffs Citizens Advisory Committee are:

  • Patricia Allen
  • Christopher Bryan
  • Michael Cleveland
  • Octavio Fuentes
  • Natasha Herzig
  • Stuart Katz
  • Angela Murphy
  • Michael Newman
  • Paul Parisi
  • Kristen Randall
  • Shelia Seery
  • Kathleen Wishnick

The group is intended to meet monthly with the sheriff or his representative, Napier said.

The now-abolished "CLEPC" had been plagued with inaction in 2019, holding just four meetings and failing to convene a quorum for several others.

It was set up by the supervisors in February 2018 as one of stipulations linked to the board's acceptance of an Operation Stonegarden border-enforcement grant. However, for months, the commission was saddled with GOP complaints that CLEPC is "platform to attack law enforcement," and has struggled to meet because five of its 15 seats are vacant, making it difficult to get a quorum. 

While the group is supposed to meet 9 to 12 times a year, the last five meetings were canceled, including a meeting scheduled for Sept. 9.

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The board voted, 4-1, to shut down the commission.

Sup. Richard Elías, the Democratic chairman of the board, cast the lone vote to retain the commission after Sups. Ally Miller and Steve Christy — Republican allies and long-term critics of CLEPC — moved to dissolve it, backed by votes from Sups. Ramón Valadez and Sharon Bronson, both Democrats.

Miller and Christy had refused to allow their appointees to participate in the commission, claiming many members appointed by other supervisors were anti-law enforcement activists. Miller pulled her three appointees and declined to fill the vacancies; Christy directed his three appointees not to attend meetings.

"I support the decision of the board with respect to dissolving CLEPC. It had simply become dysfunctional and an unproductive political platform," Napier said Tuesday, sharing a link to a TucsonSentinel.com report on Facebook.

Chief Deputy Byron Gwaltney said the SCAC will not be involved in reviewing grants for the Sheriff's Department. The new committee's goal will be the same as Napier's goal for an advisory committee, which was rejected 4-1 by the board during their meeting Sept. 17, Gwaltney said.

As to whether the meetings will be open to the public, Gwaltney said that is the goal but it might depend on the topic.

Elías said in October that Napier's new committee is probably a step in the right direction but that transparency is lacking.

"There's no public meetings, there's no public input," Elías said. "This group of people who are going to be chosen by him solely and there's no audit for that group of people to investigate things independently. I don't think it's going to be very helpful, but at least it's a start, maybe, in the right direction."

Christy said SCAC will have all the same credibility it needs under Napier as it would have had with the supervisors selecting its members.

"The sheriff is fully capable of picking and choosing his own membership lists," Christy said. "I'm sure he'll have a lot of applicants to choose from. He'll also have a lot of credible models to choose from, from around the country.

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Background reporting for this story was provided by TucsonSentinel.com’s Paul Ingram and Jorge Encinas of the Green Valley News.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier speaks to members of the Pima County Board of Supervisors just before a vote on Operation Stonegarden in May.