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N4T Investigators: Whistleblower Fallout

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TUCSON - According to some Pima County Sheriff's deputies, there exists a culture of bullying if you don't agree with Sheriff Mark Napier.

This was a revelation made public by members of the Pima County Merit System Commission last month.

It had to do with a commander who was disciplined, and then had the action overturned by the commission.

News 4 Tucson obtained a strongly-worded email that was sent to the Pima County Attorney’s Office.

This is the second time attorney Mike Storie has asked for an investigation by an independent law enforcement agency. He also wants either the Feds or the Arizona Attorney General’s Office involved to investigate accusations of perjury.

News 4 Tucson also obtained audio recordings of last month's hearing.

Joe Cameron is a veteran of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. He is no stranger to controversy, or to the Merit Commission. His latest appearance involved being suspended without pay for three days for "unprofessional behavior and insubordination."

“The Merit Commission saw through it, and I feel vindicated,” Cameron told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

It had to do with a letter of reprimand dated Sept. 19, 2017.

Cameron framed the letter and it hung in his office for eight to nine months. He was told to take it down. He did, and says he put it away. He was cleaning out his desk and placed it on top.

Testimony before the commission said chief Karl Woolridge was in Cameron’s office after hours, when he saw the letter. Woolridge then had a captain discipline Cameron.

Cameron, a 32-year veteran of the force, was suspended three days without pay. But he tells News 4 Tucson, there is more to the story.

“I've always believed and known I've been targeted for being a whistleblower for attempting to expose the corruption in Sheriff Napier's regime and they've come after me because of it,” Cameron told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

John Fink, a member of the Merit Commission, agreed. He recently talked it about in a meeting of the body. .

“Do I feel that Woolridge has targeted and is targeting Lt. Cameron? I do. I apologize on behalf of your agency that won't apologize,” Fink said.

Fink is the chair of the commission, and a retired Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer.

Mike Hellon, another commission member, stated what they heard from some of the sheriff's command staff there were "multiple cases of perjury committed by the sheriff's command staff.”

The commission was also outraged over the no-show by Chief Karl Woolridge, who was subpoenaed to testify before the body.

“I consider Captain Woolridge to be in contempt of this commission and Sheriff Napier to be complicit in that contempt,” Hellon said.

After the hearing, Hellon explained this was not the first time he has encountered what he says is a problem within the sheriff's department.

“All I would ask is do a better job of establishing the record, and when you come in don't lie to us,” Hellon said.

Cameron agreed there is a huge problem within the department.

“It starts at the top with Mark Napier. It involves his chiefs, anybody that does not go along with what he wants he retaliates, and they bully and they come after,” Cameron told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

Cameron’s attorney, Mike Storie, told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, he warned the department not to reprimand his client.

“I knew that it was trumped up charges on Lt. Cameron and that we would win and expose a lot of corruption in the sheriff's department and we did,” Storie told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

On Jan. 14th, Storie sent an email to the Pima County Attorney's Office asking for an investigation into the allegations of perjury. He also wants an outside agency to investigate.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators wanted to get the sheriff's side of the story, however he declined to answer questions about the issue on-camera.

“I'm just not prepared to discuss it at this time Lupita. I will be in the future,” Sheriff Napier told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

Days later, the sheriff came out with a statement denying there was any wrongdoing, and the allegations that Chief Karl Woolridge ignored a subpoena were not true. 

Sheriff Napier claims Woolridge is fighting for his life. 

The sheriff also asked the county attorney’s office on Jan. 17 to conduct an investigation into the allegations of perjury.

The Pima County Attorney’s Office tells News 4 Tucson they are looking into the matter.

Lupita Murillo

Lupita Murillo is an investigative reporter. She is part of the Digging Deeper team that uncovers important issues focusing on crime that affects the community.

Paul Birmingham

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