Oro Valley Councilman Mike Zinkin denies claims that he was involved in a hit and run incident on Sept. 12 in the parking lot of Canyon Del Oro High School – a case in which any pending charges have since been dropped by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.
That evening, Zinkin arrived at the school to watch a football game. While parking, Zinkin acknowledges – as the Pima County Sheriff’s Department’s police report reflects – that he backed into a truck belonging to Zachary Tarbet.
Zinkin says he then checked for damage on the truck, and seeing none, parked his car and made his way to the field.
Zachary’s friend, Jacob Dunklee, who patrols the parking lot during football games, witnessed the collision. He in turn informed Zachary and Zachary’s brother, Jeremy Tarbet, who immediately inspected the truck together, and noticed no damage.
The stories differ on what happened next.
Zinkin says he not only saw Jacob witness the incident, but that he also approached Jeremy and Jacob at the beginning of the game – before the coin flip – to inform them he had hit the truck.
“I noticed the kid who was in the parking lot when I did it, and I said, ‘Can you believe I did that?’” said Zinkin. “I knew he had seen me hit the car as soon as I heard it happen, but everything was handled and taken care of before kickoff.”
During that conversation, Jeremy informed Zinkin the truck he had hit belongs to his brother, to which Zinkin suggested they again inspect the vehicle at halftime.
At halftime, Zinkin and Jeremy again inspected the truck, and noticed no damage.
Zinkin then asked Jeremy, who works as an instructor for CDO’s automotive class, if he could fix his car, which had sustained damage. Jeremy agreed, and the next day fixed Zinkin’s bumper.
But Jeremy recalls the incident differently, saying the timing and manner of Zinkin’s admission of guilt is different than Zinkin claims.
When asked if Zinkin approached him before the game, Jeremy said, “Definitely not. He wishes.”
Jeremy says it was only after Zinkin heard him and Jacob talking about the incident that he approached them. That was toward the end of the second quarter, when Zinkin happened to be on the sideline nearby, says Jeremy.
“He didn’t proactively approach us,” said Jeremy. “Once he heard it was ours, he said, ‘Oh, that was your car?’ If nobody had said anything about it, he wouldn’t have either. He didn’t know the truck was ours.”
Zinkin maintains that Jeremy got it wrong.
“That’s not true at all,” said Zinkin. “I spoke with them right after the briefing by the head linesman. We talked about it before the game started.”
Two weeks after the game, CDO’s School Resource Officer, Ron Beauchamp, noticed Zinkin’s business card in Jeremy’s automotive class, prompting a conversation as to why it was there.
After Jeremy detailed the incident, Beauchamp recommended a police report be filed, to which Tarbet agreed.
“After talking to the SRO, he said we should do this just in case, and that it was always a good idea to report it,” said Jeremy. “He (Beauchamp) didn’t know about the incident before that.”
The case was referred to the Pima County Sheriff’s Department due to the fact it involved an elected Oro Valley official – standard protocol according to Lt. Kara Riley, public information officer for the Oro Valley Police Department.
“It is extremely common practice to ship out to other agencies with situations like this,” she said, citing the fact an outside agency was also used when an Oro Valley police officer was caught shoplifting months ago.
Riley says using an outside agency ensures fairness when it comes to situations that may present a conflict of interest.
“In a case like this involving a councilmember, we don’t want an appearance of impropriety, so we want to have another jurisdiction look at it,” she said.
Deputies with PCSD arrived at Zinkin’s home on Sept. 26 and were invited inside by Zinkin, according to the police report filed by Deputy Jorge Rodriguez.
The officers asked Zinkin whether he had spoken directly with the vehicle’s owner, Zachary, following the incident.
“He stated he never did pass the information on to him, being that his (Zachary’s) brother was aware of it, and figured that his brother would pass that information along if needed,” the report reads.
The case consequently took on the designation of a hit and run.
“It wasn’t a hit and run,” argues Zinkin, who stayed on location until the game ended, and felt he gave enough disclosure to negate a hit and run charge.
Zinkin followed up with the sheriff’s department in the days following the visit to question what would happen next.
He says Deputy Rodriguez told him he would recommend to his superiors that no further action be taken in the case.
“There was no criminal intent in this, and they agreed with me,” said Zinkin, who believes the situation goes deeper than surface level.
Zinkin argues that those accusations only surfaced due to the fact that in September he filed a request for overtime submissions for paid personnel of the Oro Valley Police Department, after which the Oro Valley Police Officer’s Association released a four-page memorandum expressing concern that Zinkin either “has no confidence in the Chief of Police and his command staff to properly monitor the Town of Oro Valley Police Department and its budget and operations” and/or he “has reason to accuse some or all of the commissioned officers” of the police department “of dishonesty and fraud as it concerns their submittal of requests for overtime reimbursement.”
Zinkin has been a proponent of a case study for the police department to explore if and how cuts or shifts can be made.
He now feels the overtime submissions request, as well as the subsequent letter from the OVPOA, is being used against him by the Oro Valley Police Department.
“The fact the Oro Valley Police Department made an issue of this is related to the timing of the release of the OVPOA’s four-page letter,” said Zinkin.
Riley says the reporting officer was simply doing his job.
“If a potential crime has occurred or anything that might be criminal in nature, or potentially criminal in nature in the future, we have to report it, and the officer was doing just that,” she said. “I don’t believe it had anything to do with the OVPOA letter or overtime request.”