The Sheriff’s decision to attempt to influence public opinion through his recent editorial instead of his standard procedure of handing out Rico Funded checks, comes as no surprise to those of us paying attention. Because he was unable to bamboozle the Board of Supervisors (BOS) with an initial request for almost $13 million dollars in budget increases, he returned to the board for 2.7 million. Fortunately, they saw through his facade and did not even offer a motion to move the agenda item to a vote. With the exception of Supervisor Chase, who was visibly upset to the point of tears, the BOS has shown leadership and resolve for good fiscal management of the County’s treasury.
What most citizens do not know is that the BOS agenda item approved right before the Sheriff came forward to submit his budget increase was the approval of the Pinal County 2013-2014 Tentative Budget in the amount of $373,723,558. What is also significant about the Tentative Budget is 63 percent of it is actually allocated to public safety and legal. Yes, 63 percent which is a 31 percent increase over 2012-2013. Even more remarkable is the fact that 1 percent of the 2013-2014 budget is allocated to “Other” under which the county’s educational resources fall. So far, I have not seen the County Superintendent of Schools making a request for additional funding to support our schools with “Equal Protection”, so where are our priorities? For those of you that need to see the dollars, the Sheriffs 2013-2014 budgeted expenditures/expenses amount to $61,836,555.
Reference the Segal study the Sheriff mentioned in his piece, what he left out was that the cities of Mesa, Chandler and Tempe were also included in the analysis which tended to sway the data. When asked by Vice-Chair Smith for a more aligned analysis with Counties similar to ours, well that request seemed to fall on deaf ears. The analysis submitted last week was essentially the same as previously submitted.
K-9 Deputy Berner has become somewhat of a poster Deputy for a failing retention system. However, even though I do not personally know Deputy Eric Berner, from what I have learned at the BOS meetings, losing him will have a significant effect on our department. I don’t believe however, that his decision to offer his talents to another agency and perhaps receive advancement opportunities should be viewed with apprehension. No man is an island and due to his exceptional training program, I am sure he will be replaced by someone of quality in short order.
I also don’t argue the point that our Sheriff’s departments’ sworn and support staff should be fairly compensated for the tremendous job they do protecting and serving the citizens of Pinal County, as should all of the fine employees in all of the county’s departments. I just believe, and I don’t appear to be alone, that with a $61,836,555 budget, the Sheriff should provide for his employees and stop blaming the BOS for his inability to do so. I am neither a human resources specialist nor a psychologist, but I believe if you keep projecting towards someone else for your failures, then those under your authority will begin to believe you are correct and will feel disenfranchised.
During BOS meetings where the Sheriff is striving to make a point, I have noticed that a large number of Sheriff’s department personnel in uniform and armed tend to attend. Are these personnel on duty and assigned to the BOS meetings? I would think that with a budget as tight as it is, we would probably need those personnel out in the field if on duty or at home enjoying well deserved time off with their families if not.
Finally, the budget is just that, a budget and can be managed or exceeded. What it looks like most Pinal citizens are asking the Sheriff to do is to manage the budget he submitted before he comes back to ask for more. Since he is quoting our current elected officials, perhaps he will remember this quote from his previous congressional run, If elected to Congress, Babeu said he’ll be “a strong fiscal conservative” and advocate for “spending within our means,” (Washington Blade, February 27, 2012). What is more believable, his words then or his actions now. You decide!
/s/ Henry Wade, Chair
Pinal County Democratic Party