This week’s Oro Valley Council meeting could be interesting, as it appears council members Mike Zinkin and Bill Garner finally got their way on the main agenda item. It appears the council will be discussing Oro Valley Police Chief Danny Sharp’s reporting structure in a public meeting.
This comes more than a year after Zinkin was elected to a regular term, and Garner was reelected. The two have consistently questioned what seems like all aspects of the police department. From the budget, to the programs the police department participates in, Zinkin and Garner are continually there with questions.
The problem for them, however, is the fact that they appear to remain in the minority. Led by Mayor Satish Hiremath, the majority of Vice Mayor Lou Waters, and council members Joe Hornat and Mary Snider remain pleased with the direction of the police department.
Put simply, why shouldn’t they be? The department receives national recognition, it puts a priority on traffic safety and has really gained attention over the last year for placing a priority on having police officers inside all schools inside town limits.
But, even though the majority is happy, they can’t continue to ignore Zinkin and Garner completely. The two are doing what they have been appointed to do when it comes to the police department.
For whatever reason, several years ago it was decided that Chief Sharp would report directly to the council and not to the town manager. Because of this structure, the council wouldn’t be doing their job as Sharp’s direct supervisors if they didn’t question aspects of the budget, review his contract and not be afraid to ask questions.
The question, if it is discussed at length during the council meeting, now becomes should Chief Sharp report directory to Town Manager Greg Caton?
With respect to Caton, he certainly has taken the town manager’s position and brought more respect to the town. He has managed the budget well. Simply look at where the budget was three years ago with tax increases, cuts to transportation, issues with the library, and a lot of staff being let go.
In a short time, Caton has taken on each issue one by one. He has done a good job finding solutions, getting salary increases for staff, and even leading the way for the $5 million aquatic center to become a reality. I can’t say that three years ago I would have thought the budget would be as stable as it is today.
Why shouldn’t Caton also oversee the police department? He is paid more than $120,000 a year to manage the town, and it is his full time job.
The council, while they do their jobs nicely, are still not full-time members of the town staff. They have jobs, lives and are elected officials who are paid a minimal amount to oversee policy.
However, there is the argument that if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Chief Sharp is a true member of the Oro Valley community. He is respected and has been doing a good job for a long time. Why should he change who he is reporting to if there are no glaring problems with the current structure?
At the end of the day, because the council is still supervising Chief Sharp and the police department, all of these points should be considered and a thoughtful, well-discussed decision should be made.
Either way, no matter what the council decides this week, Chief Sharp’s work and the tremendous amount of pride the community has in the department and its police officers will remain intact.
The council’s decision on the issue will be posted on The Explorer’s website, www.explorernews.com, following Wednesday night’s meeting.