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11/30/2012 6:01:00 AM
Sides' case ripped apart at appeals reading
County fired Sides while he was running for supervisor
Jerry Sides
Jerry Sides

Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa
Miner Staff Reporter


KINGMAN - Former county supervisor candidate Jerry Sides may have a tough time appealing the county's decision to fire him after the Mohave County Merit Commission gutted his case Thursday.

The county fired Sides from his position as a senior facilities and grounds worker in the public works department after two employees claimed he was campaigning for office while on the job.

Sides ran against Travin Pennington and incumbent Gary Watson for the Republican nomination for the Board of Supervisors District 1 seat this year. Watson later won the nomination and the election.

A county investigator also found that Sides violated the county's policy not to have contact with the two employees, that he received several personal calls on his county cell phone and that there were inconsistencies between his work orders and the GPS data for his county vehicle.

Sides denies all of the allegations and is appealing his firing.

Commissioner Charlotte Wells had to remind Sides' representative, Steven Robinson, that the Thursday hearing was to determine what evidence and witnesses would be admitted to the formal hearing in January.

Kate Baker, an attorney hired to represent the county, was able to get the commission to exclude a number of Robinson's witnesses and evidence based on the fact that the material wasn't relevant to the case.

Specifically, she argued that Robinson's request to include an incident involving County Public Information Officer Darryle Purcell and former County Supervisor Tom Sockwell allegedly giving a reporter and the Bullhead City Chamber of Commerce a copy of a background check on Robinson was not relevant.

"I can't grasp the meaning of these documents. The PIO is not a witness and Ms. Angius is not a witness. It's not relevant," Baker said. "I also think this incident has something to do with Mr. Robinson."

Robinson said the incident was an attempt to use him to smear Sockwell's opponent, Hildy Angius, in the race for Board of Supervisors. He argued that the incident showed that the county was inconsistent in enforcing its policy against political activity by county employees during work hours.

The incident was investigated but the county found that Purcell had done nothing wrong, Robinson said. Sides, on the other hand, was fired for talking to other employees at a county Christmas party.

"It is an insult to this process and to this tribunal to bring your own political interests into this," Wells told Robinson.

The commission also excluded a copy of a county news release that took Bullhead City Mayor Jack Hakim to task.



Pattern of

retaliation

Robinson argued that it showed that County Manager Ron Walker had a pattern of retaliating against people and that the County Manager's Office headed up the investigation of Sides, not the Public Works Department.

Baker pointed out that Ron Walker was also not on the witness list and the situation had nothing to do with Sides getting fired.

Baker also questioned Robinson's request for County Finance Director John Timko's meeting schedule.

Timko wasn't on the witness list and had nothing to do with the firing of Sides, Baker said.

Robinson said that information was necessary to argue his case that certain county officials had a history of punishing people who crossed them. Timko was tied to the incident where Purcell and Sockwell distributed copies of Robinson's background check, he said.



Improper focus

"It's clear to me that (Ron) Walker is the focus of Mr. Robinson's case, which I find very improper," Baker said.

"This is supposed to be about whether the county was being capricious when it fired Mr. Sides," Jackie Walker reminded Robinson.

The commission voted unanimously to exclude the information. It also excluded several witnesses whose testimony Robinson wanted to use to show a pattern of retribution by the county against employees who spoke out against it.

The commission also excluded Robinson's request to use information from a 2009 employee complaint allegedly filed against Deputy County Manager of Public Works Mike Hendrix. The complaint was dismissed because the employee didn't file it within a certain time frame.

Robinson said he wanted to use the information to show that the county employees had filed a grievance against Sides too late.

Baker lost her attempt to prevent Robinson from getting access to the digital recordings of the employee interviews used in the investigation that led to Sides getting fired.

"I believe they (Robinson and Sides) have a history of releasing information to the press. There's no way to police who they would release these tapes to," Baker said.

She raised concerns that several employees who were interviewed for the report would be retaliated against if information from the tapes were released to the public.

"I don't see why they need the tapes when they have the transcripts," Baker said.

"Is there any way the county could provide Mr. Robinson or Mr. Sides space to listen to these tapes?" Wells asked.

She said she understood Robinson's and Sides' concerns that the transcripts may not be accurate, but was reluctant to release the tapes to them outright.

A room where he and Sides could listen to the tapes would be fine, Robinson said. He had no plans to release the information on the tapes to the public and would not make copies of the recordings.

Before the commission adjourned it decided to hold the formal appeals hearing sometime during the first or second week of January. The exact date will depend on when County Human Resource Director Ray Osuna is able to get all of the county employees asked to testify in the case together.

Related Stories:
• Mohave County panel upholds firing of Sides
• Technicalities mar start of Sides' hearing
• Mohave County candidate, employee calls dismissal a 'witch hunt'
• Jerry Sides: I'm being punished for campaigning


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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Article comment by: Golden Valley Land Owner

Jerry Sides could have chosen no better person than Steven Robinson to represent him. Mr. Robinson is single handily fighting all the corruption here is Mohave Co. He has fought Mr. Walker and won and he has faced every corrupt person here in Mohave County and his goal is to save Mohave Co. He knows every evil deed that is being done and with no backing he fights. We should get rid of every supervisor and the county manager position and put Steve Robinson in place to run our county. Mr. Robinson put the district 4 supervisor in office all by himself. He pointed out that every other candidate was too incompetent to even be considered and he was right. Steve Robinson runs our county, not the good old boys, Steve would not allow this!

Posted: Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Article comment by: justice served

retaliation: no....they dont retaliate.....but then "She raised concerns that several employees who were interviewed for the report would be retaliated against if information from the tapes were released to the public". its all a cover up as always....lies, lies lies....i can't wait for the karma to hit the "dirty dozen"....
hmmmmm.how many x employees have been retaliated against.


Posted: Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Article comment by: Trained observer

@ seem to recall one County departmeent supervisor who ran bass tournaments from his office during working hours with a County owned lap top and the County phone. Nothing was ever done to him.

I think a lot of people recognize this person. He was awarded his job by his fishing buddy and had no experience in it. He also managed to "lose" cameras and laptops.


Posted: Monday, December 3, 2012
Article comment by: anonymous anonymous

Another Mohave County Peyton place drama!

Posted: Monday, December 3, 2012
Article comment by: Linda Athens

I recall while working for the county, a person who had not really been in their position all that long doing her husband's books on a county computer.

I was told others around her became aware of it and the special treatment she received from their boss so they found a way to read her e-mails to find out what all was going on.

She realized this, then called an employee at IT, a person she hardly knew, and demanded he find a way to keep her e-mails from being read and held something over his head in order for him to do so. He advised her he could lose his job for that and would not do it.

She is still in her job....hated...but still there.

The last part came straight from the horse's mouth. This is but a small sampling of wrong doing in the county offices. Working in another office, I daily watched the boss go home by 3PM. No, she didn't come in at 6AM. She straggled in later than opening time, daily left hours early.

These are supposed to be legitimate county offices. Unlike years ago when I worked there and we took it all seriously, the crap that goes on now is unbelievable. Like a bunch of backstabbing immature little kids. I know oldtimers that must be rolling in their graves at the MO used today.


Posted: Monday, December 3, 2012
Article comment by: For a Better Kingman

Sides- subpoena all cell phone records of county employees. Then show all the ones making personal calls. Why weren't they fired?

Subpoena GPS records of all county employees. Review the ones who were not at worksites during work hours. Why weren't they fired?

Better yet- Daily Miner make public records requests for these documents.


Posted: Monday, December 3, 2012
Article comment by: Steven Robinson

@For a Better Kingman:

First, the hearing is scheduled (at this time) for January 9 & 10th next year.

This is not a court of law, rather a County public commission which is staffed by citizen volunteers, like the Transportation Commission or the Planning & Zoning Commission. The one huge difference is that the members of this Commission is not selected by the Supervisors, rather by the County Manager through the Human Resources Department. Further the Commission won't change just because the Supervisors do.

Specifically, the County Manager controls every Department including Human Resources. And at this time everyone knows, the County Manager is Ron Walker.

There are supposed to be Five members and there are currently (for the first time in years) though two members' terms are scheduled to end on Dec 28th, I assume they will be re-appointed at least through the end of January. They can be removed for non-appearance at meetings or for cause. It is admittedly the MOST powerful Commission, or Citizen's staffed Body in the County. They have a fiduciary responsibility to be fair and impartial. They should not just be a rubber stamp for the County. I'm certain the ladies and gentleman on this Commission take there duities very seriously, and remember, they are volunteers.

BUT IF this decision does not go in Jerry Sides favor he will have the option of appealing the decision to Superior Court according to ARS 12-901, regarding Administrative Hearings. Rest assured I will NOT be representing Jerry before that Court! (Though I'm certain I will be very involved with the preparation of that case, as I am the person most familiar with all the evidence.


Posted: Sunday, December 2, 2012
Article comment by: Betty Stimson

It's clear in this article that whether or not the additional information was allowed or his firing was justified - all that will be decided in court or dismissed in court.
The Clear Justice of this article is whether all the people in the County Admin offices who are named along with all the infractions, unethical or downright illegal issues that has been pointed out and listed is now officially on record. There is a LOT of corruption in the County Offices and we should all be aware of it, vote them out, or arrest them to force resignations.
kitz645


Posted: Sunday, December 2, 2012
Article comment by: mikel weisser

I am not in the habit of agreeing with Steve Robinson, but Ron Walker does have pattern of using his powers unfairly and one shouldn't be fired for loose talk at a Christmas Party but like most of the other readers/commenters here, i know little of what is actually going on beyond the occasional gossip and what i read in the papers.

However, as "for a better Kingman" pointed out above, Steve Robinson is not a real lawyer and could not even plausibly play one on TV. Of course our county needs a fair reckoning of Mr. Walker, etc. but Sides' day in court wasn't the time and this choice of action (which apparently derailed Sides' side of the case and appears to have annoyed most everyone involved, as is usual where Robinson's involved) shows exactly why Steve Robinson was the wrong choice for this case. I further assert that Sides' decision to even consider putting his personal fate in the hands of Steve Robinson casts grievous doubt about the quality of job Sides would have done.
I may not be in favor of Gary Watson’s Republican agenda, but I’ve never doubted his competence.


Posted: Sunday, December 2, 2012
Article comment by: TK 421

Sides knows exactly what he's doing, and it's quite clever. This board and the hired lawyer have it in their best interest to find against him. He knows that - he's only taking the opportunity to state his innocence, again, formally. This was supposed to be "an informal fact-finding hearing". Why hire an attorney when Robinson was more than thorough, and they will find against him anyway? Congratulations once again to Sides, for standing up to the corruption in this county.

Posted: Friday, November 30, 2012
Article comment by: Patriot WES

Hopefully all of the corruption in Mohave will go away when Ron Walker leaves at the end of the year. If Walker is involved in any way, there will be corruption involved. Best of luck to Jerry, you can always run again and I hope you win this time. Success is always the best revenge.

Posted: Friday, November 30, 2012
Article comment by: Joe Taxpayer

The offical Mohave County Merit Rules that have been under revision for 2 years state "The hearing shall be informal and technical rules of evidence and court procedure shall not apply to the proceedings, except that irrelevant, immaterial, incompetent, or unduly repetitious evidence, or evidence protected by the rules of privilege recognized by law, may be excluded." It looks like the County would prefer to keep it technical and run it like a court of law (thus hiding the truth).

You would think that with a new Board coming in, these people would rather distance themselves from Walker's way of doing things but alas, they are his clones and have supported his methods.

Since it is being run like a court of law, why are they dismissing evidence that may have set a precedence? Seems to me that it is relevelant. And as a taxpayer (remember us) I would like to know the truth.

Ms. Baker is right about one thing, since County employees were using county resources to investigate Robinson and it was related to an election, I guess it does have something to do with him.


Posted: Friday, November 30, 2012
Article comment by: concerned citizen

Here is yet another example of the good ole boy network. Do you think if they wanted this to go away that it would? This is such an obvious abuse of power is it truly unseemly. How can any of the Supervisors be proud of their charges??
If I were Watson i'd be embarrassed. He needs to show some class and have this dropped.
On the other hand what was Sides thinking in having Robinson defend him? Not a lawyer, no experience at this type of thing and has demonstrated in the past he'll turn it to be about him. Jerry are you nuts? Solicit support from the new group of Supervisors, let them show some leadership on this.


Posted: Friday, November 30, 2012
Article comment by: For a Better Kingman

Steven Robinson is not a licensed attorney in Arizona from what I can tell. Who is he and why is he representing Sides in a legal matter?

Posted: Friday, November 30, 2012
Article comment by: gun owner 000

The Kangaroo Court has convened, passed judgment, and taken the rest of the year off.

Having been a Mohave County employee and seeing the improper and inappropriate activities going on, on a daily basis, I sympathize with Jerry. What he is accused of was practically nonsense, and also a violation of his civil rights (and he's not even a minority).
According to Suzanne's story Mr. Sides is accused of talking to two other County employees at a Christmas party. What he does on his own time is his business. But, "King Ronnie" decided to send his gestapo in and charge him with a "crime" mainly out of "retaliation". As far as inconsistencies in his GPS coordinatenes and cell phone traffic...That's a County-wide joke.
I'm sure that if investigators looked a some other people's movements and cell phone usage, we would have to elect a new County Manager, his assistants, the BOS, and several departmental heads. I seem to recall one County departmeent supervisor who ran bass tournaments from his office during working hours with a County owned lap top and the County phone. Nothing was ever done to him.


Posted: Friday, November 30, 2012
Article comment by: Oprah Winfrey

That man deserved to win! I CANNOT believe that Pennington beat this man.


I hope Jerry Sides gets his justice.


Posted: Friday, November 30, 2012
Article comment by: Trained Observer

As much as I believe Sides to be in the wrong, I think that he was punished for something that others do on a daily basis. While these denials of evidence might not work for this appeal bet the continued pattern of favoritism and nepotism won't play well in a court of law. There are dozens of former employees that have been wronged by the county and its HR department.




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