Paul Babeu, Pinal County Sheriff, Lambasted by Newly-Retired PCSO Captain Jeffrey Karns
Pinal County Sheriff's Office Captain Jeffrey Karns, who retired today, lambasted Sheriff Paul Babeu in an e-mail he sent not only to Babeu, but to all PCSO staff.
pinalcountyaz.gov Now retired PCSO Captain Jeffrey Karns oversaw the Patrol Bureau
Karns' scathing message -- addressed to 661 employees -- appears to be sparked by Babeu's request before the Board of Supervisors to reclassify command staff from "covered" employees to "at-will" workers.
If approved, the change effectively would strip those affected PCSO employees, primarily PCSO lieutenants, of their ability to appeal to a review board any decision Babeu made to discipline or terminate them.
The board is meeting Wednesday, and Babeu's request is on the agenda.
The proposed change also would mean more money for most lieutenants, with a total of $32,281.60 in annual pay increases. Karns, however, would have faced a nearly $15,000 pay cut.
Karns, promoted to captain in 2002, writes that Babeu's move is about gaining for himself "total and complete control and support, operationally and politically."
Typically, county employees have the right to appeal any discipline they receive to the Pinal County Merit System Commission, a five-member board that can uphold, modify, or overturn county officials' decisions. Those who are classified as "at-will" employees do not.
Karns tells Babeu that his proposal ensures that if command staff doesn't "bow and accede" to his "every wish and desire, they face termination." It will also create "a 'forever' atmosphere of constant nagging-fear, constant tension, and constant stress, worrying if today is the day Paul terminates me," he writes.
PCSO mouthpiece Tim Gaffney, in a statement posted online by the Arizona Daily Star, dismissed Karns e-mail by citing that no decision yet has been made by the Board of Supervisors, that this was merely an "organizational change to improve operations."
Gaffney points to Karns' past support of Babeu, including a letter he wrote recommending Babeu for the National Sheriff of the Year Award, and an e-mail commending Babeu for his leadership and stance on arming school administrators in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
"It is truly puzzling why Captain Karns overreacted to an organizational change that has yet to take place, and I can only surmise that some other issue is in play that made him lash out," Gaffney says in his statement.
The Pinal County Sheriff's Office website, which still lists Karns as leader of the Sheriff's Office Patrol Division, says of the captain:
The experience and professionalism Captain Karns possesses, as well as his knowledge of and involvement in the Pinal County Community, has provided the Sheriff's Office with a valuable resource.
Although the board hasn't considered the matter, Karns' e-mail states that a member of Babeu's "executive staff relayed the message" to him that once he became an at-will employee, he would face termination.
He sarcastically thanks Babeu for "notifying me that you were involuntarily forcing an 'at-will' position on me...punitively reducing my pay by approximately $15,000 [and] handing me as good a 'Constructive Termination' cause of action as I have ever seen."
While it is unclear what transpired between Karns and Babeu or other high-level PCSO staff, Karns -- who says he was planning to retire in April -- hints at lawsuit against the Sheriff's Office.
"I will likely get the compensation back that your actions are costing my family, unfortunately not from you personally, but from the poor taxpayers of Pinal County who will likely continue to suffer such actions due to what you continue to do," Karns writes to Babeu. "Albeit it is important to note that I will not seek one dime more than what I lost, since that is the only fair thing to do."
A notice of claim -- a precursor to a lawsuit -- usually is filled with enough details to establish the basis for a lawsuit, and probably would reveal details about this fresh rift between Karns and Babeu, seemingly one-time allies.