Pima County Board of Supervisors reverses decision on Stonegarden grant

Pima County Board of Supervisors reverses decision on Stonegarden grant
(Source: Tucson News Now)

PIMA COUNTY, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Pima County Board of Supervisors reversed a decision made two weeks ago and has decided to accept a federal Stonegarden federal grant from the Department of Homeland Security for $1.4 million.

The money will be used by the Pima County Sheriff's Department as part of its border strategy with federal agencies.

The county will use the money to purchase new vehicles, pay overtime, and buy other equipment which it feels is needed to enforce laws in remote, hard to get to, rural areas.

Pima County has been accepting the gr ants since 2004 but questions have arisen about the latest gr ant proposal relating to immigration issues.

Deputies are not supposed to initiate measures to enforce immigration law along the border. That's a federal responsibility but charges have been made that county deputies have crossed the line.

The ACLU says the department routinely violates the 4th Amendment by conducting road checkpoints, accuses the sheriff's department of possible incidents of racial profiling and says the department should not accept any more funding until it establishes protocols for the money.

Even federal reviews, have in the past, acknowledged the lack of oversight of some Stonegarden gr ants.

In its decision to reject the gr ant, the county board said it was concerned because it appeared the gr ants actually cost local taxpayers because the end result led to expenditures which would not have been incurred in the first place or were not sufficiently reimbursed, such as jail costs and mileage costs.

It was pointed out by the ACLU that most of the stops by the sheriff's department was not for major drug or smuggling related crimes, but small misdemeanor crimes which inflated the final costs.

In his decision to reverse course, Supervisor Ramone Valadez, who cast the deciding vote to overturn his earlier decision, argued whether the county accepted the money or did not, nothing changed.

However, his decision was based on approval of a set of conditions which will lead to better oversight of the Stonegarden monies and set up a 10 member board to investigate the issues of racial profiling.

"I have obtained additional information that leads me to believe this investment is appropriate and in the best interest of the County," Valadez said.

Even though Valadez may feel that way, some of his constituents who left the meeting were not happy, with one saying she will begin a recall.

But Valadez pointed out he's been with community activists on border wall and Dreamer issues even though he may have broken on this one.

He told fellow Democrat Richard Elias, who did not change his vote "look we may disagree but it's not a disrespect." He added "it's not that we accept this gr ant that we like the broken policy, that we like the immigration policy."

He blamed the politicians in Washington D.C. for not fixing the problem.

Under his proposal, Valadez would also ask the sheriff's department and county finance department to determine whether employee related expenses are proper.

Sheriff Napier told the board "we are not in the business of pro-active immigration enforcement, that is not the role of my department and never will be."

However he said he was troubled by the accusations from several of the 54 speakers at Tuesday's hearing who told stories about being racially profiled or of friends and family who were.

Napier said he would accept the five conditions offered by Valadez including the ten member board which will oversee accusations of profiling.

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