County: Demonstration with piñata OK despite public job
Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry says Pima County Public Defender Isabel Garcia didn’t violate any policy by protesting at a controversial event.
Garcia attended a protest over Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s July 10 book signing at a local store. Video of Garcia holding a severed piñata head with Arpaio’s face on it has been widely distributed on the Internet.
Garcia belongs to Coalición de Derechos Humans, which organized the protest.
Huckelberry’s memo, which was released Monday, states that “no disciplinary action is warranted in this matter.”
According to the memo, Garcia and Arpaio were both appearing at the event as private citizens.
Garcia also complied with police to move the protest away from the store’s entrance, Huckelberry said.
In addition, he said his investigation showed Garcia hasn’t used her office or county resources for any outside activity.
Arpaio’s deputy chief, John J. MacIntyre, said that Garcia violated lawyer ethics rules, but Huckelberry said that’s something for the State Bar of Arizona to decide.
The State Bar couldn’t confirm Monday whether there are active complaints against Garcia.
Garcia didn’t return a call seeking comment.
Huckelberry wrote that county ethical rules don’t cover events outside official duties. After researching other policies at various entities, from other Arizona counties to the Arizona Republic newspaper, Huckelberry noted that such policies “vary in specificity regarding off-duty activities, and use terms that are vague and difficult to enforce.
“What is embarrassing or inappropriate to one person may not be to another,” Huckelberry wrote.
Huckelberry asked Human Resources department to discuss whether to revise county policy with the Pima County Merit System Commission.
The county heard from 775 writers and callers in favor of Garcia’s actions, 229 against.