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12/24/2012 6:01:00 AM
Sides: Silence of witnesses sabotages case
Former county employee appealing his dismissal
Former county employee Jerry Sides
Former county employee Jerry Sides

Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa
Miner Staff Reporter

Former county employee Jerry Sides is accusing the county of attempting to sabotage his attempt to get his job back through the County Merit Commission by telling witnesses not to speak to him.

Sides was fired from his county position as a senior facilities and grounds worker for the Mohave County Public Works Department in July after two public works employees accused him of campaigning while on the job. He ran for the District 1 Board of Supervisors seat in this fall's election and lost. He appealed the decision to the County's Merit Commission.

Steven Robinson, who is representing Sides before the commission, said he has attempted to contact the two employees that filed the complaint against Sides multiple times without success.

"One told me over the phone that he was told not to talk to me and then hung up. The other employee never called me back," Robinson said. "When I contacted (Deputy County Manager for Public Works and Development Services Mike) Hendrix about setting up a time to meet with the two employees, he told me to go through the county's attorney, Kate Baker. Baker told me that the employees don't have to talk to me if they don't want to."

The commission directed both sides to make their witnesses available to each other before the formal appeals hearing in January.

Baker was contacted but did not return phone calls before deadline.

County officials have repeatedly declined to speak about the case.

Robinson also claims that the commission's rules contradict the county's merit rules. He pointed to Arizona Revised Statute 11-251, which states that all ordinances that are created by a county board of supervisors preempt any rules made by any other county commissions or boards.

The merit rules, which were approved by the Board of Supervisors, call for an independent hearing officer to be picked by both sides to investigate an employee's appeal for being fired and then report the findings to the commission.

"The commission can't even meet until the report is submitted to them," Robinson said. "By contrast, the commission's procedures completely eliminate even the option of a hearing officer."

According to Robinson, Sides never got a chance to pick a hearing officer.

The commission's rules also eliminate the merit rules' 10-day time limit for filing a complaint against a fellow county employee and the requirement to report the complaint to your immediate superior before moving up the chain of command.

Then the county started playing word games with the definitions of grievance and complaint, Robinson said.

When he asked about the differences between the rules at an evidentiary hearing in late November, Baker told him that the employees had filed a complaint, not a grievance against Sides, which is why the county was following a different procedure.

Robinson pointed out that both the county's merit rules and the commission's rules use the two words interchangeably.

He also accuses the county of playing games with the commission's authority to subpoena witnesses.

Robinson said the Mohave County Human Resources director told him in an October letter that the county attorney had ruled three years ago that the commission did not have the power to subpoena witnesses.

Robinson requested a copy of the attorney's opinion to find that the commission does have the power to determine if a subpoena is necessary.

He also claims that the county has made it difficult to get documents and other evidence from county offices to bolster Sides' case.

When Robinson asked for the commission to order to the county to give him a list of documents, it told him to use the county's request for information form.

The commission's ruling on Sides' case is final. He cannot appeal it. He can file a complaint against the county with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Sides' formal appeals hearing is at 9 a.m. on Jan. 9 and 10 at the County Administration Building, 700 W. Beale St.

ICT - Kingman Honda
Related Stories:
• Mohave County panel upholds firing of Sides
• Technicalities mar start of Sides' hearing
• Supervisor candidate fired, vows appeal
• Jerry Sides: I'm being punished for campaigning

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Article comment by: Sick 2 Death

Isn't anybody else sick to death of hearing about the woes of one Jerry Sides? There's gotta be some real news going on around here.

Posted: Monday, December 24, 2012
Article comment by: From An An Average Person

Steve, stop making a fool of yourself, get a real job, get a life and be a productive member of society. Please stop being a nuisance to averyone.

Posted: Monday, December 24, 2012
Article comment by: Steven Robinson

Just two minor corrections to Suzanne's story, to clear the record.

1. After the first employee stated what he did about being ordered not to talk to me, I did not attempt to contact the other employee.

2. The Merit Commission's "Appeal Hearing Procedures" do not even mention the word grievance except to say that "...anyone otherwise aggrieved shall follow Merit Rule 601, Grievance System." That is incorrect in one point. They meant Article 6 Grievance System. Rule 601 is the General Rules.

A side note, there are NO guidelines for determining whether something is a "Complaint" or a "Grievance", and there are NO specific procedures for the Merit Commission or the county to follow regarding Complaints. They can do whatever they want!

Posted: Monday, December 24, 2012
Article comment by: Beale Resident

@ Mr. Sides
It seems to me you were warned early on about having Robinson represent you. In the end you will surely come to find, it will become all about him, not you. You need to ask yourself, are the problems listed above because of you or him? He has a reputation of getting involved in areas over his head which he can't finish. The list is extensive.

Posted: Monday, December 24, 2012
Article comment by: Spelling Bee

Spell "Mohave County" - T y r a n t

Largest locomotive system in Mohave - County
(Sides is being railroaded)

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