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N4T Investigators: State investigates Southern Arizona sheriff

TUCSON – The Arizona Auditor General is investigating Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada, according to county emails.

Estrada gave additional hours, that were not actually worked, to employees who performed duties the sheriff said were outside of their job descriptions. Some of those duties included supervising shifts and training deputies.

“They were getting compensated for that,” Estrada said. “Now this has been going on for a long time, for decades, probably before I came.”

The News 4 Tucson Investigators filed a public records request for emails between Estrada and County Manager Jennifer St. John.

St. John wrote to the sheriff, “This is extremely inappropriate. I’m not sure how we can have such differing views on this issue.”

She said all employees can be requested to perform additional duties reasonably related to their work and abilities.

Estrada said he is short on staff because county leadership has failed to prioritize public safety.

“Unfortunately, many of our employees have to take on additional duties as we are a small, rural county with limited resources,” St. John wrote.

Estrada said members of the sheriff’s office should not be compared to other employees.

“They’re not affected by it because they work 8 to 5,” Estrada said. “They don’t work 24-7. They don’t have anybody supervising them after hours. They don’t have to worry about the jail. They don’t have to worry about patrol. They don’t have to worry about 911.”

The Auditor General usually makes recommendations, but sometimes the office provides information to the Attorney General’s Office or a local County Attorney’s Office if the Auditor General believes statute violations are abnormal.

Estrada said he does not believe he was doing anything illegal.

“When you are talking about anything that’s illegal, you’re talking about giving somebody a gift for something that he or she did not do,” Estrada said. “These are things that our officers performed, and, as a result of that, they were compensated.”

Estrada said, despite the overtime, his office consistently stays within budget.

All 3 county supervisors and the county manager declined an opportunity for an interview on this subject because of the state’s investigation.

Sam Salzwedel

Sam Salzwedel

Sam Salzwedel is an investigative reporter at News 4 Tucson - KVOA.
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