Supervisors back away from interim sheriff appointmentBy Shar Porier
Wick News Service
BISBEE — Concerned that a vote to appoint an interim sheriff might be construed as a political endorsement, the Cochise County Board of Supervisors voted not to appoint the current chief deputy to the position in a two-to-one decision Tuesday, Oct. 9.
Supervisor Ann English, (D) District 2, requested the item be placed on the board agenda so that a discussion on the appointment of Chief Deputy Rod Rothrock as interim sheriff could take place. She suggested he be appointed until January when a newly-elected sheriff would take over the department.
County Administrator Mike Ortega explained that according to the state statute and the county attorney’s office, the supervisors had no time limit set to make an appointment.
"I think it is our responsibility," English said. "I know that it clouds the issue coming so close to the election, but I don’t think that relieves us of the responsibility of appointing someone. I think we relied on courtesy not to do it earlier.
"The forces that be have said that maybe it’s a political issue, but for me, I think it’s a matter of our responsibility to appoint someone," English said. "I think we have someone in the sheriff’s department who would do a good job fulfilling the term. I think that Rod Rothrock has served us well and so I certainly would be willing to put his name forward as the sheriff."
The courtesy English referred to was the time taken for the Republican Party and the state to choose a candidate whose name on the Nov. 6 ballot will replace the name of the late-Sheriff Larry Dever.
Supervisor Pat Call, (R) District 1, stated, "I am ambivalent at this point in time as to what we do to move forward. As Mr. Ortega pointed out, we are under no time constraints to move forward on this. Certainly the department is being run by the chief deputy at this time. Since we’re so close to the election … and Chief Deputy Rod Rothrock is running in that election, that sort of clouds the issue in my mind as to our making a decision … That might be construed as throwing our support behind one person over another."
The same thought was proffered by Supervisor Richard Searle, (R) District 3, who said, "Rod Rothrock’s doing an excellent job. He has basically been taking care of this department for many years. He is the acting sheriff at this time, pursuant to state statute according to our attorney. So I don’t know that we really need to act on it. I’d just as soon let the voters make the determination. We have three weeks to wait for the election … There has been a lot of turmoil in this department over the loss of Sheriff Dever … and to allow Chief Rothrock to continue what he’s doing is just fine. I just don’t feel the need to step in and make a decision when the voters will do it in three weeks."
"I think that’s stepping back from your responsibility," responded English. "Each one of you has made the statement that Chief Rothrock has been running the department and doing it well. Why are you not willing to make the decision and allow him to be county sheriff if only for two months or three months. What I’m saying is, we have an individual who is competent and running the department and if all the political verbiage and all that were washed away, that is the individual that you would probably select to run the department …"
She continued by saying it was the supervisors’ responsibility to appoint a new sheriff and the electorate’s responsibility to elect a new sheriff. These were two different issues in her mind and appointing Rothrock they would not be acting as supporters of his write-in campaign. If he’s doing a good job, why not give him the title, English asked.
Only English voted for the appointment of Rothrock.
The supervisors also recognized the hard work of four employees who finally got a county repeater up on the U.S. Forest Service tower in Antelope Pass in the far southeastern corner of the county.
IT employees Tim Zimmerman, Brian Adamson, Rosa Lopez and director Travis Cutright got pats on the back along with the Deputy David Noland for persevering to provide law enforcement with the ability to communicate with each other in the remote areas of the San Bernardino valley up to San Simon.
"We’ve never had communications there," said Searle. "It’s been an issue for forever. This adds thousands of square miles of communications for our public safety officers and other jurisdictions which improves the service we provide the citizens of Cochise County."
English noted, "This is one of those projects that have been on the back burner. Nobody could figure out where to put the tower or we could not get a place to put the tower. Every law enforcement person who has been out in that area does not like to drive it alone. If something happened, they had no cell service and no radio service. So the citizens were not feeling secure. Now this gives everybody the sense of ‘now we have contact with the outside world’ … This is huge step forward … It’s a win-win."
Communications problems during the massive Horseshoe 2 fire last year led the federal government to provide a tower in the pass, she added.
In other business:
• Recommended forwarding a request for a series No. 13 liquor license (domestic farm winery) as submitted by Mark Beres for Flying Leap Vineyards in Willcox.
• Approved a letter of opposition to the U.S. Forest Service about the change of status on some 700 roads within the Huachuca and Whetstone mountains.
• Approved a letter of opposition to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in which they objected to the possible establishment of critical habitat in the southeastern part of the county for the desert massasauga rattlesnake which has been suggested for listing as a threatened or endangered species.
• Approved the tax appeal of John Eli Aboud.
• Approved an amendment to an intergovernmental agreement between the county and state health departments for $86,273 for the immunization program.
• Approved an amendment to an intergovernmental agreement between the county and state health departments for $12,000 to go towards the tuberculosis control program.