Paul Babeu's January Proposal to Strip Lieutenants of Employee Rights Was Done Deal, E-mails Suggest
Remember the e-mail sent by then-PCSO Captain Jeffrey Karns lambasting Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu?
Who could possibly forget the scathing, sarcasm-riddled message Karns blasted to every PCSO employee on January 8 over Babeu's plan to strip Karns and PCSO lieutenants of their employee protections.
Karns sent his e-mail (and retired) on January 8, a day before the Pinal County Board of Supervisors was expected to consider Babeu's request, which including cutting Karns' pay by $15,000 a year.
The day the e-mail was leaked from the PCSO, Chief Deputy Steve Henry -- Babeu's No. 2 -- issued, in part, this media statement: "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."
New Times came across a few other e-mails that Karns sent, and from them we can surmise that Karns had good reason to believe that Babeu's plans were as good as done.
Babeu wanted to reclassify Karns and all the department's lieutenants from "covered" employees to "at will" workers -- meaning they could be fired on a whim and had no right to appeal the decision.
On January 4 at 1:34 p.m. Karns wrote to Deputy Chief Harry Grizzle about pending employee evaluations: "I haven't finished all of them yet, but since all the lieutenants are now at-will, do I need to do them or not?"
Note Grizzle's response at 2:01 p.m.: "Yes, due to they were not during the time they worked. It would be fair to them and to their benefit." (emphasis ours)
Mr. Henry, what's "truly puzzling" is why the pair was talking about Babeu's proposal as though it had already been approved. How could they be so sure that the Board of Supervisors would agree with Babeu's plan?
Ten minutes later, at 2:11 p.m., Karns send a separate e-mail to Grizzle -- no message, only a subject line that says: "I am fucked."
An interesting find, we thought.
Here it is, January 4 -- five days before Supervisors are supposed to decide whether to allow Babeu to strip the lieutenants of their employee protections -- and Karns and Grizzle, one of Babeu's No. 3 guys who oversees law enforcement services, are talking about it as though it had already been approved.
Makes you wonder.
Yet, Henry puts out his dutiful statement, feigning confusion over Karns' e-mail.
Supervisors initially postponed the matter on January 9 but came back on February 13 and voted 3-2 to grant Babeu's request, expanding his ability to fire as many as 34 employees. Babeu asked Supervisors to approve for more pay for the lieutenants -- a seemingly kind gesture since they were losing their job security. They denied bumping their pay, and Babeu reclassified them anyway.
No job protection. No raises.
Doesn't seem that Karns -- who was able to retire -- was really the one getting screwed in this political fray.
On January 6 at 12:18 p.m., two days before he sent his infamous e-mail, Karns sent an e-mail to himself with talking points he apparently planned to share with the Board of Supervisors about the pitfalls of allowing Babeu to reclassify employees.
As we know, he opted instead for sending an e-mail.
And here's the "thank-you-Paul" e-mail, ICYMI:
From: "Jeffrey Karns" To: "Paul Babeu" Cc: [659 PCSO employees, two gmail accounts] Sent: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 10:06:09 AM Subject: Retirement: I want To Thank You
I want to write this email to you, just to thank you. I want to thank you for a number of reasons.
First, I want to thank you for notifying me that you were involuntarily forcing an 'at-will- position on me. I want to thank you for punitively reducing my pay by approximately $15,000. I want to thank you for ensuring that your executive staff relayed the message to me that once 'at-will', I would face termination.
I want to thank you rejecting the open and clear knowledge and the one-on-one reminder from your executive staff that I was planning on retiring in April of this year and to allow me that honor. I want to thank you for rejecting that information out-of-hand and for bulling ahead with punitive measures designed either to force my retirement or to put me in a terminable position. I want to thank you for the loss of critically needed pay-out monies I would have received in April and critically needed months of salary that I and my family are now going to have to re-plan for not receiving.
I want to thank you for seemingly attempting to negatively impact the reputation, career and earned retirement of a dedicated career-long 'Merit-Employee', one who has had a stellar career, free from controversy, free from scandal and one who has competitively tested, competed and 'promoted' (not appointed, Paul) through every classified-rank that the PCSO has; one who has commanded men and bureaus for longer than you have been a 'cop', and one who is an FBI National Academy Graduate.
I want to also thank you for the, what I view as, 'reprehensible' forced 'at-will' status change on the Lieutenants. I want to thank you for what is obviously nothing but a career-ending forced reclassification for some of them. Because, you see, Paul, if you were to have a heart-attack, get in a plane crash, gadfly off to some other political office that you deem of greater advantage 'to you', then any new Sheriff will, just as you did, Paul, terminate 'at-will' employees and replace them with loyal-minions.
Of course, you already know that, so, I want to thank you for that, also.
Why do I want to thank you, Paul, for taking all this (what to me is) dishonorable, unethical and nakedly (no pun intended) selfish action?
Well, I will tell you Paul, I want to thank you for handing me as good a 'Constructive Termination' cause of action as I have ever seen. So worry not, Paul, 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. 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.
I want to thank you for the punitive pay cut for me, my forced 'at-will' reclassification and my forced retirement, along with the forced 'at-will' reclassification of all the loyal dedicated career-Lieutenants who you have just placed in a position of total and complete control and support, operationally and politically, of YOU.
For, Paul, if they do not bow and accede to you every wish and desire, they face termination, regardless of whether that is your intention, or not. I want to thank you for openly doing this to these men and women who's dedication and loyalty to the County and to the PCSO, is now repaid with a 'forever' atmosphere of constant nagging-fear, constant tension and constant stress, worrying if today is the day Paul terminates me.
Yes, Paul, the bottom-line reason I want to thank you, is that by these actions, you have just done something that has, so far, been illusive to most employees of the PCSO and citizenry at large.
You, Paul have unmasked yourself. You have revealed the 'inner-Paul', revealed what appears to be your real character and your true motivations, motives and plans. It is being viewed with disgust by some and I am sure, in some cases, with fear, surprise, disappointment and even horror. You see, Paul, nobody will believe you do not intend to continue this 'at-will' action right down the ranks, regardless of what you 'say'. You have shown what it is that 'you do' and that has always been of far more value than what a man 'says'.
Things inside will never be the same for you now, Paul and the already existing terrible morale, well, it just got worse, much worse.
Congratulations. You, Paul, have engineered an agency-wide epiphany for the employees, and, I believe, it will spread amongst other agencies and certain citizens when the real story makes its rounds. Oh yes, Paul, the facts will make their rounds.
The primary reason I am writing this thank you, is that it affords me the opportunity to put the facts out there, just in case you, or one of your cadre of loyal-minions were to attempt to paint it in some more, dare I say, 'Paul friendly' light...
So, Paul, thank you for all that you have done. I would like to say that I wish you the best and wish you good luck in your endeavors, but, well, I am not a liar, so I won't do so.
All my best, Jeff
Captain Jeffrey Karns Commander, Patrol Bureau Pinal County Sheriff's Office
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.